Your Voice 2016

'wholly irrational'

Federal judge defies Gov. Rick Scott and extends Florida voter registration after hurricane

Getty/Joe Raedle

Thanks to the courts, the state of Florida has extended its voter registration deadline from Tuesday to Wednesday following a lawsuit brought against the state’s Republican governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner. U.S. Federal Judge Mark Walker said Florida should extended the deadline to at least Wednesday due to last week’s hurricane.

Scott refused last week, as Hurricane Matthew bored down on the state, to grant an extension, arguing “everyone has had a lot of time to register.” Democrats, including Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, implored Scott—who chairs a national pro-Donald Trump super PAC—to extend the deadline, in light of the storm he warned Floridians would “kill you.” But to no avail. So the state’s Democratic Party took its fight to the courts.

“Because of Hurricane Matthew, many Floridians who would have registered to vote prior to the October 11 registration deadline have been displaced and therefore cannot register to vote,” the Democrats said in a release about their suit. “Moreover, many offices at which voters could register in person and U.S. Postal Offices where voters could submit registration applications have been closed, preventing Floridians in areas impacted by Hurricane Matthew from submitting their registration materials.”

They cited the extension of voting and registration deadlines in some mid-Atlantic states amid Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and similar moves over the past week by South Carolina and Georgia that showed flexibility in registration deadlines. “There is no conceivable reason why Florida should not follow suit,” the release said.

So far, Walker, the federal judge, sided with the Democrats, issuing a one-day extension of voting registration from today until tomorrow, allowing applicants to register while he makes a final decision on the lawsuit.

“Quite simply, it is wholly irrational in this instance for Florida to refuse to extend the voter registration deadline when the state already allows the governor to suspend or move the election date due to an unforeseen emergency,” Walker wrote in a 16-page order, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “If aspiring eligible Florida voters are barred from registering to vote, then those voters are stripped of one of our most precious freedoms.”

There will be a hearing tomorrow to determine if the deadline will be extended even further.

As of publication time—about 20 hours after the judgement was issued—neither the Florida Secretary of State’s elections page nor Scott’s official twitter account made any mention of the extension. But Florida’s Democratic Party did hail the extension as a victory in a tweet: