Democrats sue to extend Florida voter registration period as Hurricane Michael approaches

October 9, 2018

Florida Democrats filed suit Tuesday to extend the state’s deadline for voting registration as Hurricane Michael bore down on Florida’s Panhandle.

The storm, currently a Category 2 hurricane raging in the Gulf of Mexico and sweeping northeast, is expected to get stronger and make landfall sometime Wednesday, possibly as a Category 3.

Dozens of counties in Florida and Georgia have already declared states of emergency, and Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott has suspended his senatorial campaign to focus on storm preparation duties.

The Democrats’ lawsuit seeks an emergency injunction to extend the Oct. 9 deadline, arguing it has become too difficult for some Floridians to meet as they brace for Michael.

The Department of State’s offices were closed Tuesday due to the coming storm, and in 35 of Florida’s northern and northwestern counties, Mr. Scott also ordered offices closed.

Mr. Scott previously extended the registration deadline in those counties where closures have occurred by one day after the day they reopen, but the lawsuit seeks to have that window expanded to one week to Oct. 16.

“Although the Secretary has proposed a single-day registration extension in some counties to accommodate a subset of voters affected by Hurricane Michael, his ‘solution’ is insufficient and confusing,” the lawsuit reads. “It does not adequately protect the voting rights of Florida citizens who cannot register to vote by the October 9 deadline.”

Other obstacles could occur for those seeking to register online due to power outages the storm may cause, the lawsuit said.

“Governor Scott and Secretary [Ken] Detzner have failed to adequately protect the rights of these eligible voters,” said Florida Democratic Chair Terrie Rizzo.

In addition to Mr. Scott’s bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida voters will choose a new governor this November, as Mr. Scott is term-limited. That race features Republican Ron DeSantis, a former House member endorsed by President Trump, running against Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee who was something of a surprise victor in the Democratic primary in August.

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