Nuyoricans in Florida Could Tip the Race - If They Vote

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Still, boricuas, much like the rest of the U.S. Latino population, tend liberal. And Nuyoricans are even more liberal than those born on the island.

However, the potential of the Nuyorican voting block is a lot more exciting for Democrats than the actuality: They don't show up to vote.

"Puerto Rican turnout hovers around 40 percent on the mainland but is more than twice that on the island," Stanford professor of political science, Gary Segura, wrote in Daedalus journal this fall. In fact, Puerto Ricans lag considerably behind most other Latino groups in the U.S., despite their high participation on the island.

The low turnout likely has to do with differences in electoral institutions and party mobilization tactics, according to UC Irvine political science professor Louis DeSipio, who studied the trend in 2006. Whatever the reason, the trend is notable.

"They all vote over there, but not here," said Luis Rodriguez, a San Juan native who lives on the island, but is visiting a friend who cuts hair at the Puerto Rican-owned MVP Haircuts in Kissimmee. "They just aren't as passionate about the politics over here."

Still, some pollsters say that the Latino vote could spell victory for Obama in states like Florida.

"If Latinos turnout at the high rates we are expecting, they could deliver Nevada, Colorado, Florida and Virginia to Obama," Matt Barreto, principal investigator for Latino Decisions, said Monday.

Even if the Hispanic vote doesn't push Florida to the Democrats this time around, changing population demographics suggest that the state may not be red for much longer. The Hispanic population is booming -- nearly 17 percent of the U.S. is now Hispanic -- but most Latinos are still young. Of Latinos who are citizens, more than 40 percent are under the age of 18.

Eleven-year-old Juan Sebastian, who is getting his hair cut at the barbershop, says that if he could vote, he'd vote for Obama.

"Florida es muy Republicano, pero vamos a cambiar eso," says Juan Carlos Hernandez, Juan's father, looking on as the barber trims his son's hair. Translation: Florida is very Republican, but we're going to change that.

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"Mi hijo será parte del cambio," he says. "My son will be part of this change."

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