Jess Ramírez and María Sánchez Díez
Are you a Puerto Rican who relocated to the U.S. after hurricanes Irma and María and is planning to vote in the midterm elections? ProPublica wants to hear from you.
A lawsuit filed on August 16th, claims that Puerto Ricans living in Florida who have limited English proficiency will be prevented from voting because, according to a press release by the advocacy group Demos, “elections in many parts of the state are conducted only in English.” The suit alleges that 32 Florida counties are not planning to provide ballots in Spanish.
The suit cites Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, which specifically protects Puerto Rican voters educated in Spanish-speaking schools on the island. It prohibits states from making the right to vote contingent on a person’s ability to understand English.
Although Puerto Ricans are American citizens, the island doesn’t elect a voting representative or senators. Evacuees who moved to the mainland after the hurricanes are eligible to vote in the midterm elections in the state in which they’re living, but they have to re-register.
The exodus of Puerto Ricans affected by the storms has created an influx of potential voters. The Center for Puerto Rican Studies estimates more than 130,000 Puerto Ricans relocated to the continental U.S. after Hurricane María. Of those, 56,447 reside in Florida as of March 2018. Despite the efforts of campaigns to reach this new electorate, displaced Puerto Ricans don’t seem to be registering to vote at the rate some were expecting, at least by now.
We’d like to know why that’s the case, and whether language problems are playing a role. That’s why we need to hear from you.
If you or somebody you know relocated from Puerto Rico to the mainland since the hurricanes and have had any problems registering to vote — whether you were ultimately successful or not — we want to hear your story.
A note about our commitment to your privacy: We appreciate you sharing your story and we take your privacy seriously. ProPublica is gathering this information for our reporting, and will not publish it without your permission. If you’d rather talk on Signal or WhatsApp, which are more secure, send a message to 347-244-2134. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jess Ramírez is an Engagement Reporting Fellow for the Scripps Howard Journalism Fellowship for ProPublica. María Sánchez Díez is a Reporter for Propublica.