Puerto Rican voters could determine results of Florida’s elections

Puerto Rican voters may just decide the outcome of this year’s governor’s race in Florida. While the results of Florida’s elections are often determined by politically…

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) speaks to voters as he campaigns with Florida Governor Rick Scott (L) during a campaign stop at Milander Park on November 2, 2014 in Hialeah, Florida. Even though South Florida’s Cuban-American voting bloc remains powerful, Puerto Ricans could be the swing vote in the midterm elections. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Puerto Rican voters may just decide the outcome of this year’s governor’s race in Florida.

While the results of Florida’s elections are often determined by politically powerful Cuban-American population, a typically reliable Republican voting bloc in South Florida, the state’s growing Puerto Rican population could be this year’s swing vote—if they show up to vote.

SEE ALSO: Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; Latinos can determine this election

Since 2013, Puerto Ricans have been migrating from the US territory to the States in large numbers, the mass exodus due to Puerto Rico’s poor economy and high crime rates, populating the so-called I-4 corridor in Central Florida–a reference to the Interstate highway that cuts across the Orlando area.

Currently, nearly 1 million Puerto Ricans reside in Florida, with almost 300,000 living in the Orlando metropolitan area, according to the BBC.

This means that the state’s Puerto Rican population–which registers more often as Democrat than Cubans would–is closing in on Florida’s Cuban-American population, which is at 1.3 million.

While Puerto Ricans cannot vote in US elections while living in US island territory, they are US citizens and can vote if they live somewhere in the continental United States. Because they do not have a firm political allegiance to either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, their votes are some of the most valuable in the country.

Tuesday’s governor’s race between Republican incumbent, Rick Scott, and the Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist, is already tight, so Puerto Rican voters could help tilt the balance of the election.

Puerto Rican Florida senator, Darren Soto, believes that his community will be crucial not just in the upcoming governor’s race, but also in the 2016 presidential election.

“In 2008, the Sunday before the election, President Obama held a rally in my district,” Soto said. “He could have been anywhere in the country. He chose this area because we are critical and strategic.”

Even though Puerto Ricans play a crucial role in the state’s elections, many don’t show up to the polls, possibly because of their lack of familiarity with the political culture in the US.

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about Latino voters in the midterm elections

However, this year’s political campaigns and outreach programs in Florida have been more intense, and the Puerto Rican population has been one of the primary targets of these campaigns that aim to encourage Latino voters to head to the polls on Tuesday.