Federal Judge Extends Florida Voter Registration Deadline After Hurricane Matthew
Oct 14 2016 by Desiree Burns
In what is a victory for democracy, a federal judge on Wednesday chose to extend Florida's voter registration deadline by a week, citing the impact of Hurricane Matthew.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee gave voters until October 18 to register to vote for the November 8 general election, after the Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit seeking more time.
The extension was requested by the Florida Democratic Party and backed by voter-rights groups who argued the storm may have affected registration turnouts for 1.5 million Floridians due to Governor Rick Scott's evacuation order.
The ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by the state Democratic Party, which argued that there is a "strong likelihood" that many voters would be "severely burdened" by the hurricane. Spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said on Tuesday, that the state would accept the court's decision.
In the storm's wake, many residents are still struggling to return to their homes and recover, even as they face looming deadlines to register as voters.
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Therefore, according to the judge, extending the voter registration deadline is not a decision specifically granted to the Governor of Florida, including in a declared state of emergency like Hurricane Matthew.
Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel said he understands why the deadline was extended but noted he'll have to increase staff hours to review more registration forms, some of which might contain incorrect data.
"Look, this is, this is politics", Scott said, after saying earlier that "everybody has had a lot of time to register".
The office will be open October 13, 14, 17 and 18 from 8 a.m.to 5 p.m.to help voters register. Their legal brief cited statistics that showed almost 160,000 voters had registered in the final nine days before the 2012 deadline. Walker wrote in that temporary order that because state law did not actually provide Scott with powers to extend voter registration, he was not actually a defendant in the case.
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