Florida's original voter deadline was Tuesday, but Hurricane Matthew changed that
Democrats pushed for that deadline to be extended in the presidential battleground state
In a victory for the Florida Democratic Party, a federal judge agreed Wednesday to extend voting registration in the state until October 18 because of the impact of Hurricane Matthew.
Judge Mark E. Walker, of the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida, granted a preliminary injunction to the Florida Democratic Party and other groups who had argued that voter registration needed to be moved because of the effects of the storm, which raked along the Eastern Coastline for several days.
“No right is more precious than having a voice in our democracy,” wrote Walker, who was appointed in 2012 by President Barack Obama wrote in a brief order.
“Hopefully, it is not lost on anyone that the right to have a voice is why this great country exists in the first place,” he said.
The judge noted that he had heard testimony from the Leon County Supervisor of Elections who said the magnitude of the storm imposed “tremendous strain” on elections offices. He also noted that the storm delayed naturalization ceremonies and that new citizens “through no fault of their own” would not have had the opportunity to vote in the election absent his order.
A spokesperson for the Florida Secretary of State’s office said they have already sent the order to the Supervisor of Elections.
The original deadline was Tuesday, but the judge had temporarily moved it to Wednesday so that he could hold a hearing on the matter.
Marc Elias — an attorney for the Florida Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign – had argued in court papers that Florida voters faced a “daunting, and indeed, life threatening obstacle” to register to vote because of Hurricane Matthew. He said “a massive and dangerous weather event that has threatened Florida with substantial damage and loss of life.”
Last week, Republican Gov. Rick Scott told reporters he didn’t “intend to make changes,” saying “people have had time to register.”
“We’ll now be able to make up for lost time and help register people whose lives were disrupted by the storm,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “Our goal is to help every Floridian register, vote, and be heard, and we’re grateful that the storm did not silence their voices.”
“Federal law requires the state to provide voters with enough time to register before the election,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “With this extension, more citizens will be able to exercise their most fundamental right in our democracy.