CNN reports on the impact of Puerto Ricans moving to the mainland after Hurricane Maria.
In the wish lists of Democratic strategists, one imagines the arrival of tens of thousands of Democratic-leaning voters to Florida, seemingly overnight, ranks pretty high.
Two months after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island, new data suggests that’s exactly what’s happened.
Figures on school enrollment provided to CNN from the Florida Department of Education suggest that well over 50,000 Puerto Ricans will have moved to Florida and made it their residence heading into the midterm election next year.
These voters are likely to be strong Democrat supporters, as an analysis by Dan Smith, a University of Florida professor, found that heavily-Puerto Rican districts only gave 15 to 35% support to Trump.
Counting the number of school children arriving from Puerto Rico is a good way to understand how Florida’s electorate will change due to Hurricane Maria. “School enrollment is the best indicator for long-term settlement,” said Edwin Melendez, director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York.
More than 6,500 Puerto Rican children have enrolled in Florida schools as of November 14. The data shows a strong continuing trend: A week earlier, the figure stood at 5,600. A week before that, it was 4,300. The evidence suggests that substantially more children are enrolled at this point as this kind of data can have a lag and has reporting gaps, Melendez said.
With a colleague, Melendez found that if 9,600 Puerto Rican children enroll in schools, that means a total of about 41,000 Puerto Ricans migrated to Florida. On the high end, if 15,400 students enroll, an estimated 83,000 Puerto Ricans migrated. There is a very high probability based on the current trend that the lower estimate will be surpassed by next November.
Migration at this level will mean Republicans face an even harsher demographic shift in a state already trending away from them. Hispanics constituted an estimated 12% of the eligible voter population in Florida in 2000. Before the Hurricane, that number was expected to double by 2030.
“It’s a little more headwind for Republicans who were already grappling with an increasingly Democratic population,” said Rob Griffin, director of quantitative analysis at the Center for American Progress and contributor to the States of Change project.
I can report that Miami-Dade County Public Schools is already accommodating the arrival. We’re sadly accustomed to this; after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 we took in a lot of new students and made room for them.
As for the impact this could have on the elections in 2018 and 2020, it’s highly unlikely that the people who were basically ignored by the Trump administration until the public outcry forced them to do something — like toss paper towels — while they did everything they could for Texas (although it wasn’t nearly enough, according to the people in Texas) will forget what happened in the aftermath of the storm. They were not just ignored; they were mocked, vilified, and set up for a con.
The reason for this treatment is simple Republican logic. Puerto Ricans can’t vote in the presidential election and even if they could, they’re largely Democrats anyway. Texas, on the other hand, is very Republican and also the home of one of Trump’s possible primary challengers in 2020, Ted Cruz. You go where the money is and where you can score electoral points.
But once Puerto Ricans are on the mainland and registered to vote, they will vote. And they will remember.