Florida Democrats sue to extend voter registration deadline after Hurricane Matthew


    What's left in Florida after Hurricane Matthew


What's left in Florida after Hurricane Matthew 01:16

Story highlights

  • Florida's voter registration deadline is Tuesday
  • Democrats say Hurricane Matthew burdened potential voters and the deadline should be removed

Washington (CNN)The Florida Democratic Party filed papers Sunday night asking a federal judge to extend voter registration by at least one week in the state because of a "strong likelihood" that thousands of Floridians affected by Hurricane Matthew will be "severely burdened" in the upcoming election.

Under state law, the voter registration deadline is Tuesday, October 11. Eligible citizens who fail to register will be unable to case a ballot in November.
"Florida voters, however, face a daunting and, indeed, life threatening obstacle to registering to vote in the form of Hurricane Matthew," lawyer Marc Elias argued court papers, "a massive and dangerous weather event that has threatened Florida with substantial damage and loss of life."
    Last Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott told reporters he didn't "intend to make changes," saying "people have had time to register."
    In court papers, Elias, who serves at the general counsel for the Clinton campaign, argued that Scott, a Republican, "unambiguously ordered" Florida citizens to evacuate, and now some voters have been prevented from being able to register which might decrease "the overall likelihood" that the party will be successful in helping to elect Democrats.
    He argued that if the court does not step in "there is a strong likelihood that the right to vote of thousands of Floridians" would be burdened. He said a failure to extend registration would impose a "disproportionate burden" on the voting rights of minority voters in the storm affected areas.
    Election law expert Richard L. Hasen of the University of California, Irvine School of Law questioned whether the court would grant relief.
    "To begin with," Hasen wrote on his Election Law Blog, "it is not clear if this will be seen as violating equal protection" or the Voting Rights Act. He said a "further complication" is that it is not clear if Florida law allows the extension.
    The hurricane hit Florida last Thursday and Friday, with at times 130 mile per hour winds. Scott deployed the national guard and more than 1 million residents lost power.
    Elias noted that South Carolina, also a target of the storm, extended its mail-in voter registration deadline.