Already-heightened efforts to attract Puerto Rican voters — whether the voters left the island long ago or are recent hurricane refugees — have shifted into higher gear amid a new death count from Hurricane Maria.
The Florida Democratic Party on Wednesday received a “first-of-its-kind” national party grant, worth $100,000, to “expand engagement efforts with Puerto Rican voters across the state.”
“With this grant, we’re making sure that Florida Democrats have the tools they need to identify and connect with new Puerto Rican voters, and provide them with the support they need as they settle in the Sunshine State,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said.
Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Rick Scott embarked — in his official capacity, not as a U.S. Senate candidate — on his sixth trip to the territory since Hurricane Maria ravaged the island last September.
The Thursday trip to “offer guidance” regarding ongoing hurricane recovery, came at the invitation of Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello, according to a news release from Scott’s office.
While critics have tried to highlight perceived indifference by President Donald Trump toward the island’s recovery, Scott’s office offered a bullet-pointed rundown of “actions taken by Governor Scott following Hurricane Maria.”
The latest Democratic and Republican efforts came on the heels of a report by a research team led by scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that concluded far more people might have died in Hurricane Maria than official totals indicate. Based on storm-experience comments from randomly surveyed households, the report said perhaps 4,645 people died who otherwise wouldn’t have perished if Puerto Rico hadn’t been ravaged by Maria.
The estimate would ratchet up the death count, which the officials who invited Scott to the island have held at 64 — 20 fewer than Florida recorded from Hurricane Irma.