Puerto Ricans increasingly registering with no party affiliation

By Paula Machado, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 06, 2018, 6:40 PM EST

With several hurricanes this past season, Florida has seen an influx in its Puerto Rican population, which could potentially mean thousands of new voters in Florida.

Doris Albizu is one of them, who after a few months living in Central Florida, registered to vote.

“It’s my right as a U.S. Citizen to vote, so of course I registered as soon as I could,” Albizu said.

Albizu registered as Non-Party Affiliate, stating she’s not familiar with politics in Florida.

“I don’t know the candidates, I don’t know their fundamental values,” she explained.

Albizu is not alone — many Puerto Ricans are registering as Non-Party Affiliate or Third Parties.

“Those who are relocating from Puerto Rico to Central Florida, they don’t understand the political structure here. They tend to register with no party affiliation,” said Bill Cowles, Supervisor of Elections in Orange County.

Local leaders working closely with displaced Puerto Ricans also believe these individuals have bigger priorities.

“They’re coming to Florida for services, for opportunities and to find at least a place to live. So elections, voting, getting involved, it’s an afterthought,” said Carlos Guzmán, President at National Puerto Rican Leadership Council, a nonpartisan organization helping displaced families.

The concern here is that those registered to vote as NPA get locked out of closed primaries in Florida, and some Puerto Ricans may not know this.      

"Education is surely needed with all new voters to understand the things you get to vote for,” Cowles said.

But the amount of voters not choosing either the Democrat or Republican Party appears to be a growing trend since 1990, those registering as third party members or NPA has nearly quadrupled.

It could change the landscape of this year’s midterm elections, where Albizu wants to exercise her right to vote.

“I’d love to vote, but I know I need to educate myself so I can make an informed selection,” she said.

You can register to vote online by visiting registertovoteflorida.gov.