A Republican candidate for Congress in Florida has walked back an earlier assertion that Puerto Rican hurricane evacuees should not be allowed to register to vote in the mainland United States.
As reported by Politico on Tuesday, Republican congressional candidate John Ward made the remark last week in response to a voter who asked about Puerto Ricans who have moved “either temporarily or permanently” to Florida: “How do you respond to them when they say that they need more help and that the aid to Puerto Rico is not enough?”
“First of all, I don’t think they should be allowed to register to vote,” Ward said. “And it’s not lost on me that, I think, the Democrat Party’s really hoping that they can change the voting registers in a lot of counties and districts. And I don’t think they should be allowed to do that.”
“We should be looking to put the Puerto Ricans back in their homes,” he added, per Politico. “So the idea that they can come to the mainland United States, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. But I think we should be thinking about it in terms of getting them back home and providing the capital and resources to rebuild Puerto Rico, which I honestly think is where they belong.”
The campaign of a GOP primary opponent of Ward’s, Fred Costello, posted a video of the exchange on Wednesday, Politico noted:
On Friday Ward was asked about the remarks, and he replied that “of course” Puerto Ricans are American citizens who have the right to vote in Florida once establishing permanent residency, per Politico.
But in an email to Politico, Ward maintained that the Democratic Party shouldn’t “be able to take advantage of Puerto Rican evacuees fleeing a natural disaster, here on a temporary basis, in order to manipulate voter registrations rolls in the run up to the 2018 elections.”
“I would welcome any Puerto Rican who wants to permanently resettle in Florida to register to vote here,” he continued. “We’re all American citizens together. That said, if a natural disaster displaced me from Florida to some other state temporarily, I’d still want to vote by absentee in FL, my home community and voter registration, and not elsewhere.”
Read Politico’s report here.