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Puerto Ricans in Florida 'the Key to Winning' Elections, But Voters Tend to Vote Less in Mainland Than When in Puerto Rico

First Posted: Dec 09, 2014 01:12 PM EST

Puerto Ricans are considered a sleeping giant of Florida voters with the power to make a big difference.

According to Yahoo, Interstate 4, a busy highway that passes from Tampa to Daytona Beach, is famously known for being a swing-vote region. I-4 corridor houses thousands of Puerto Ricans who contribute to Florida's fastest-growing voter demographic.

"I-4 corridor is the key to winning Florida: Win the area and you win the election," Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, told Yahoo.

Susan said about 45 percent of Florida's registered voters live in the Tampa and Orlando media markets.

Yet, Puerto Ricans tend to vote less once they migrate to the U.S., Fox News Latino reports.

"It's a phenomenon we're seeing with Puerto Ricans," Alfonso Aguilar, a former official with the George W. Bush administration and the executive director of the American Principles Project's Latino Partnership, told the website. "In Puerto Rico, politics is a sport. People get excited. They have issues like Puerto Rico's political status -- whether it should get statehood or be independent. When Puerto Ricans come to the mainland, politics is not as exciting."

Although Puerto Ricans have a large presence in Florida, which is dubbed a "winning" state, they showed up in low numbers to the voting booth for this year's mid-term elections.

"It was a disappointing turnout," said Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster and partner at Bendixen & Amandi International. "It could be a combination of the mid-term effect, which tends to generate less excitement than presidential elections."

Amandi said both opponents, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Gov. Charlie Crist, are not doing a good job at capturing the interest of Latino voters, which also affects the low-voter turnout.

Republicans can count on the Cuban vote in South Florida but continue to see discouraging outcomes from the I-4 corridor.

Still, younger Cubans are becoming more Democratic, and so are many Puerto Ricans.

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