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Puerto Ricans: Have You Experienced Any Problems When Registering to Vote?

A lawsuit alleges that Puerto Ricans who relocated to Florida after the hurricanes of 2017 will find themselves prevented from voting because of language barriers. We need your help to tell this story.

Families in Florida wait to greet relatives evacuated from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017. (Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

This story was co-published with Univision.

Leer en español.

Are you a Puerto Rican who relocated to the U.S. after hurricanes Irma and Maria and is planning to vote in the midterm elections? ProPublica wants to hear from you.

A lawsuit filed Thursday 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 Maria. 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 [email protected].

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Jess Ramirez

Jess Ramirez is an engagement reporting fellow for the Scripps Howard Journalism Fellowship.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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