‘Salsa to the Polls’ aims to boost Latino and Hispanic voting
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Central Florida's burgeoning Puerto Rican population has a new political system to learn, but one organization is trying to add some of the island's Election Day fun.

Aiming to put a new spin on doing one’s democratic duty, an Orlando civic engagement center will be leading “Salsa to the Polls” for early voting election days starting today.

The Alianza Center’s canvassers this past year have been able to convince 7,000 voters to either register or update their registrations.  But, actually getting these new voters to the polls might be a challenge, says Cristina Robinson, chief of staff at the Alianza Center.

So, there’s going to be dancing. And decorated cars leading a caravan that starts at 2 p.m. today from the Osceola County Supervisor of Elections Office.

“We’ll be stopping at the early voting locations,” Robinson said. “We’ll get out and we’ll be doing some salsa dancing.”

Central Florida experienced a large influx of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Robinson said. And although it is a territory of the United States, some of the political procedures are different, Robinson explained.

Electing a Senator, for example, is an entirely new experience for Puerto Ricans. Four political parties run the country, but none of them go by the same names that are used here.

“All of those nuances are very new to Puerto Ricans who come from the islands,” Robinson said.

Next weekend, the Alianza Center will repeat the same procedure in Orange County.

Latinos are the fastest growing U.S. racial and ethnic group since the last Midterm, the Pew Research Center found. They represent 62% of the total growth in U.S. eligible voters between 2018 and 2022, the research found. Turnout among this group has typically trailed other groups, the same study says.

In Puerto Rico, Election Day is a holiday — a celebration with food, festivals, fairs and parades. And the island’s voter turnout is higher than the United States’. “Salsa to the Polls” is trying to capture some of that tradition, Robinson said.

 “It’s about bringing our culture and having fun into civic engagement and exercising our right to vote,” Robinson said.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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