Puerto Rico gov backs stateside get-out-the-vote group
SAN JUAN – While in Florida on Tuesday, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló presented PODER Puerto Rico, a “voter empowerment initiative that will mobilize” stateside Puerto Ricans to participate in the U.S. elections wherever they reside, according to a release by his office, La Fortaleza.
The group was launched in an auditorium at the Orlando Metro campus of the Puerto Rico-based Ana G. Méndez University System. Its president, Jose Méndez thanked the governor and said PODER “goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to promote civic engagement for the benefit of our communities both in Puerto Rico and throughout our five campuses” in Florida and Texas.
The “nonpartisan civic organization” focuses on promoting voter registration through its website, as Puerto Ricans cannot vote in U.S. elections when residing on the island.
“We need to showcase the political power of Puerto Ricans, so we can start pressing the issues that matter most to us—quality of life and real solutions to problems,” Rosselló says in the release. “Puerto Ricans are American citizens, with all the same rights and privileges as anyone in this country. We have been second-class citizens for too long, and we can no longer accept the status quo.”
Saying that after Hurricane Maria tore through the island in September “we learned who was willing to stand with us and who was not,” the governor added that with the “2018 mid-term elections coming up, we want to fully exercise the influence we can have. If we can organize ourselves, we have the power to hold those leaders accountable to their Puerto Rican constituents.”
He explained that the idea behind the initiative was “for all Puerto Ricans to activate themselves during the elections…no matter which political party they sympathize with,” and the goal is for “each Puerto Rican to serve as a spokesperson for the causes that benefit Puerto Rico.”
“At present, it is estimated that there are 32.6 percent or a total of 340,000 Puerto Ricans able to vote who are not registered,” Orlando civic leader Luis Figueroa, who will preside over PODER, says in the release.
Organization member Erinaldy Agosto, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, further explained that “PODER will seek to establish alliances with community and civic organizations to promote voter registration for Puerto Ricans in states such as Florida, Texas, New Jersey, and New York, among others.”