Press Releases

Denise W. Merrill Secretary of the State Connecticut - Seal



Focus is on Puerto Rican Families Arriving in the Wake of Hurricane Maria


Hartford - Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill today joined Chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus Rep. Chris Rosario, Rep. Hilda Santiago, legislators, and community groups in announcing a voter registration drive to focus on registering Puerto Rican families who have resettled in Connecticut in the wake of the devastation created by Hurricane Maria. Video of the announcement can be found here: or on Facebook here: Pictures from the announcement can be found here:

“Connecticut is happy to welcome our neighbors from Puerto Rico who have moved to Connecticut after Maria, and my office stands ready to help these families join in the civic life of their new communities by registering them to vote,” said Secretary of the State Merrill. “U.S. citizens do not lose their right to vote just because they lost their homes to a devastating natural disaster. In fact, by registering to vote in Connecticut, these families will now be able to vote in federal elections, and have more of a say in public affairs.”

The Secretary of the State’s office will facilitate the voter registration drive by working with legislators, local governments, and community groups active in helping newly-arrived Puerto Rican families in Connecticut, identifying and registering eligible voters, and training community organizers to register voters as they provide services to affected families.

“Part of welcoming and helping our fellow Puerto Rican citizens to acclimatize to our state is guiding them through our established processes, so that they can make progress on their goals, as they seek a better future for themselves and their families,” Rep. Rosario (D – Bridgeport) said. “Their right to participate in our local elections and have their voices heard is as critical here as political participation on the island.”

“I commend Secretary Merrill for prioritizing this initiative to get as many of our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters that chose our state as their new home after the devastation left by hurricane Maria registered to vote,” Rep. Santiago (D – Meriden) said. “It is imperative that we continue raising awareness among these American citizens so they know the process to register and vote is easy, hassle free, and fundamental to protecting our democracy.”

“It is imperative that the Puerto Rican hurricane victims seeking shelter in Connecticut retain their right to vote,” said Brandon McGee (D-Hartford), Vice Chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. “Voting is the very core of our democratic process and the right of every American, amplifying every single voice. This voting drive will ensure that these citizens have their voices heard.”

“Hispanic Federation is pleased to partner with Secretary of the State Merrill and the Connecticut General Assembly’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus’ leadership in supporting a major non-partisan Get Out the Vote community education, registration and mobilization campaign sustaining a movement around advocacy,” said Ingrid Alvarez, Connecticut State Director, Hispanic Federation. “This is an issue that impacts all Connecticut Latinos to the core.  Registering thousands of Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and other concerned Connecticut residents will send a clear message to the President, Congress and all candidates that they need to act now to assist with the emergency aid our citizens require and deserve.”

“I appreciate Secretary Merrill’s efforts at helping our family and friends from Puerto Rico as they make the transition to a new life here,” said Rep. Juan Candelaria (D – New Haven). “Individuals and families now living in New Haven are ready to participate in the democratic process.”

“I applaud the efforts of Secretary Merrill and all those involved who want to ensure that displaced Americans of Puerto Rican descent are still able to participate in and contribute to the civic life of Connecticut and the communities that welcome them while the island continues to recover from the tragedy that was Hurricane Maria,” said Rep. Jason Rojas (D – East Hartford).

“One of the most important steps a community can take to ensure they have a voice in the halls of government is to register and vote,” Rep. Ezequiel Santiago (D – Bridgeport) said. “I am very pleased we are putting words into action and making sure we stress the importance of participating in all elections. I look forward to all of these newly arrived Puerto Rican citizens registering and thank Secretary of the State Denise Merrill for her steadfast support of this effort.”

“Losing everything they had in Puerto Rico and moving to someplace new has been traumatic. I know for a fact that most of those who are now living in Hartford are anxious to exercise their voting rights and become productive citizens in their new home. I want to thank Secretary Merrill on their behalf for helping with voter registration,” said Rep. Angel Arce (D – Hartford).

“Our fellow U.S. Citizens from Puerto Rico are still waiting for the federal government to come through for them,” Rep. Geraldo Reyes, Jr. (D – Waterbury) said. “I am proud to live in such an open and compassionate state as Connecticut. This voting registration drive sends a message to those displaced by Maria – You are welcome here.”

“In the midst of a nationwide narrative that is trying to suppress voter turnout, we must support every effort that facilitates voter registration and encourages active participation in our electoral process,” said Rep. Chris Soto (D-New London).

“I commend our madam Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and the Black & Puerto Rican Caucus on their new non-partisan voter registration initiative,” said Subira Gordon, Executive Director of the Commission on Equity & Opportunity. “A robust voter engagement is fundamental to a healthy democracy and key to strengthening Puerto Rican family structure wherever they decide to live.”

“After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, we welcomed an influx of families into our towns and cities. We helped these U.S. citizens find housing and employment, and enrolled their children into our schools. But we can do more to put the power back into their hands. By giving these residents the ability to choose our next slate of state leaders, they can have a say in Connecticut’s future,” said Rep. Robyn Porter (D – New Haven).

“Nuestro voto es nuestra voz para el cambio. Mi gente despierta el cambio para hacer un cambio es ahora. ya no somos la minoría, somos la mayoría y con la guía de Dios hacemos un cambio para mejorar nuestro futuro. sí puedes sí lo haremos,” said Giselle Feliciano, Democratic Registrar of Voters, Hartford. “Our vote is our voice for change. My people, wake up, the time to make a change is now. We are no longer the minority, we are the majority, and with the guidance of God we can make a change to improve our future. Yes we can, yes we will.”

“We encourage all Puerto Ricans everywhere to participate in the decisions that affect them, and as we can see with how the Federal government has treated our people, elections matter.” Said Jason Ortiz, President of the CT Puerto Rican Agenda. “With well over 250,000 Puerto Ricans in CT, there is no road to the Governor's Office that won’t need to come through our community.  We plan to use that power to ensure every candidate for office has heard our needs, and has a plan to help.”

“As U.S. citizens, these individuals should not lose their right to vote, especially after the losses they have already endured,” Rep. Linda Gentile (D – Derby) said. “Every election is important and we need to encourage every resident, including those who are sheltering in Connecticut, to vote.”

“We are happy to continue helping our new families get acclimated here in their new home state of Connecticut,” said Aura Alvarado, Director of Communications and Community Relations, Capitol Region Education Council. “Registering to vote is another step.”

“Voting is an essential right, and I applaud the Secretary of the State’s office for helping hurricane refugees settling in Connecticut participate fully in our democracy,” Rep. Susan Johnson (D – Windham) said. “We have a responsibility to help our fellow citizens from Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories during this difficult transition, and that should include assisting with voter registration.”

“Registering to vote is an important first step in becoming active and engaged members of a community,” said Linda Bayer, Hartford Votes ~ Hartford Vota Coalition. “As we prepare ourselves for the 2018 elections, we at The Hartford Votes ~ Hartford Vota Coalition look forward to participating in this voter registration drive so that our newest residents can become voters, learn about candidates and issues, and participate in choosing our elected officials in the fall.”

“Connecticut has been at the forefront of welcoming numerous families, who fled the devastation in Puerto Rico, into our community. While these U.S. citizens have begun to put roots down in our state and have started to rebuild their lives, we need to do more to ensure their voices are heard at the state level. By empowering our new neighbors to register to vote, they can help build the blueprint of Connecticut’s future,” said Rep. Mike D’Agostino, (D – Hamden).

“The wave of families who fled Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria have lost everything: their homes, a stable living environment, a steady job and access to medical care. But they should not lose their right to make their voices heard. It is crucial that we encourage every Connecticut resident, including our new neighbors, to exercise their constitutional right to vote during the 2018 election,” said Rep. Al Paolillo, (D – New Haven).

“Now that we are here, we can vote and bring light to our issues,” said University of Hartford student Nina Vazquez. “Who knows our struggles better than us, Puerto Ricans? Who knows the Puerto Rican reality better than us? With voting comes representation and with representation comes change. With a vote we say, ‘We are here and we matter too.’ Let’s mobilize.”

“Desafortunadamente, hay puertorriqueños que no votan al llegar acá. Creen que no es  importante. QUÉ???? Miren lo que ha sucedido a nuestra isla con el pasado de los  huracanes Irma y María. Las decisiones Y acciones hechas por representantes y el Presidente de los EEUU. Todavía creen que su voto no son importante? Su voto - NUESTROS VOTOS - sí son importantes! REGISTRENSE Y VOTEN!” said Yolanda Negron, former Willimantic City Councilor. “Unfortunately, there are Puerto Ricans who do not vote when they get here. Because they believe that it is not important. What???? Look at what has happened to our island with the hurricanes Irma and Maria. The decisions and actions made by representatives and the President of the United States. Do you still believe that your votes are not important? Your vote - our votes – are important! Register and vote!!”



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