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Candidate criticized for saying displaced Puerto Ricans shouldn't be able to vote in Florida

A Republican congressional candidate is facing a backlash after saying that Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida in the...

Posted: May 23, 2018 8:32 AM
Updated: May 23, 2018 8:32 AM

A Republican congressional candidate is facing a backlash after saying that Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Maria last year should not be able to register to vote in the state.

In a video uploaded to YouTube by the campaign of a Republican rival, John Ward -- a candidate in the GOP primary for Florida's 6th Congressional District -- is asked by a voter how he would respond to Puerto Ricans who have "moved either temporarily or permanently to Florida" when "they say that they need more help and that the aid to Puerto Rico is not enough."

Ward replied by saying, "First of all, I don't think they should be allowed to register to vote. 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."

The candidate went on to say that "we should be looking to put the Puerto Ricans back in their homes. 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 is, I honestly think, is where they belong."

The comment, which Ward made at a candidate forum last month, has generated criticism from fellow Republicans.

Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, who currently represents Florida's 6th District, issued a statement Tuesday in response to Ward's remarks, saying that "candidates running for office as Republicans need to be committed to equal treatment under the law for all of our citizens."

"Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and any suggestion that they should be treated differently than other Americans is beyond the pale," the congressman said in the statement. "These are our fellow Americans and candidates running for office as Republicans need to be committed to equal treatment under the law for all of our citizens."

On Monday, Bob Cortes, a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives, endorsed Fred Costello, a Republican running against Ward, in his own statement criticizing the comments.

"I find it very ignorant and highly offensive that someone would suggest that an American citizen should not be afforded their constitutional right to register to vote," Cortes said in a phone call with CNN on Tuesday.

In an emailed statement, Ward told CNN on Tuesday, "I stand by what I said," adding, "I do not believe the Democrat Party should 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. 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."

Costello, who was also at the voter forum last month and whose campaign uploaded the video to YouTube, told CNN in a phone interview that he "can't imagine anybody endorsing John Ward and aligning themselves with that comment."

In the YouTube video, Costello said he "absolutely disagree(d)" with the comment, adding, "Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States of America. They have a right to go anywhere in the United States."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 67649

Reported Deaths: 1912
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5656118
DeSoto368031
Harrison253036
Madison244368
Rankin229235
Jackson228843
Jones191659
Forrest182056
Washington168942
Lee147941
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Lamar122614
Oktibbeha112739
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Warren109533
Lowndes108538
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Scott100320
Lafayette98317
Copiah95728
Leflore94765
Pike93836
Holmes90049
Grenada84921
Yazoo83312
Lincoln83241
Pontotoc8308
Simpson80330
Monroe80155
Leake79025
Wayne77421
Coahoma77213
Tate73629
Marshall7019
Marion68420
Union64316
Adams62925
Winston62316
Covington62113
George5895
Pearl River55439
Newton54311
Tallahatchie53011
Attala52325
Walthall50120
Chickasaw47019
Noxubee45912
Alcorn4345
Tishomingo4216
Calhoun4209
Prentiss41710
Claiborne40913
Smith40613
Clay39714
Hancock39514
Jasper3889
Itawamba37510
Tippah36713
Tunica3517
Clarke32626
Montgomery3265
Lawrence3228
Yalobusha31510
Humphreys29411
Quitman2701
Carroll26111
Greene25512
Perry2437
Amite2356
Webster23512
Kemper23414
Jefferson Davis2336
Wilkinson21113
Stone2055
Sharkey1995
Jefferson1957
Benton1431
Choctaw1354
Franklin1312
Issaquena262
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 99926

Reported Deaths: 1781
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13258244
Mobile10517207
Montgomery6835149
Madison544734
Tuscaloosa423076
Baldwin365125
Unassigned363064
Shelby330936
Marshall318937
Lee270047
Morgan241118
Etowah216232
DeKalb183013
Calhoun180717
Elmore173138
Walker153964
Houston141912
Russell13872
St. Clair135418
Limestone134913
Dallas133123
Franklin128820
Cullman122712
Colbert120716
Lauderdale118919
Autauga117421
Escambia108717
Talladega104814
Jackson10144
Tallapoosa86579
Chambers84438
Dale83525
Clarke82610
Blount8124
Chilton8097
Butler76736
Coffee7646
Covington73720
Pike7087
Marion58026
Barbour5765
Lowndes57324
Marengo56515
Hale47826
Bullock46611
Winston45711
Perry4454
Washington44312
Bibb4425
Wilcox43210
Monroe4215
Pickens4049
Randolph40310
Conecuh39310
Sumter36418
Lawrence3512
Macon33914
Crenshaw3265
Choctaw28712
Cherokee2758
Henry2643
Clay2635
Geneva2631
Greene25211
Lamar2292
Fayette2125
Cleburne1271
Coosa1033
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