The fastest growing electorate in the nation’s largest swing state is voting at an historic rate. High turnout among Florida’s Hispanic population could give Democrats a strong advantage.
Voter turnout among Hispanic Floridians is up 152% since 2012, according to an analysis of early voting and vote by mail data by University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith. New arrivals from Puerto Rico, many of whom are casting a presidential ballot for the first time, plus a shift away from the Republican Party is driving some of the changes in the voting block. 16% of registered voters in the state identify as Hispanic, and many live along the I-4 corridor in Central Florida, the purple epicenter of the swing state. All of these factors mean the election could depend on Hispanic voters, says Eduardo Gamarra. He tracks Latino public opinion at Florida International University.
"If there is a large Hispanic voter turnout, that’s good news for the democrats. And it's good news for the democrats in a context where especially there appears to be a low voter turnout among African Americans,” Gamarra said.
Apart from recent demographic shifts, Gamarra says Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s stance on immigration is driving up Latino turnout across the board.
“Even Puerto Ricans, for example, who are not immigrants, consider immigration to have become a kind of code word, a racist code word if you want. And so a lot of the mobilization of the Hispanic population or Latino population as we call it, has been driven by Mr. Trump,” he said.
Regardless of the election results, Gamarra says the changing tides of Florida's Hispanic population will steer the state's political future, particularly for the Republican party.