Judge Extends Florida Voter-Registration Deadline by One Week

  • Florida Democrats sued seeking delaying after hurricane
  • League of Women Voters, ACLU both intervened in the case

A federal judge extended Florida’s voter-registration deadline by a week, to Oct. 18, after damage and delays caused by Hurricane Matthew closed government offices in some counties for several days.

Under normal circumstances, Florida’s voter-registration law complies with federal law, which requires states to register voters until 30 days before a general election. The storm, however, first caused government offices to close on Oct. 6, meaning some voters were restricted from registering by Oct. 11 as the law allows, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker said during a hearing in Tallahassee on Wednesday.

“There’s a gap in Florida law that renders it constitutionally untenable because it is restrictive of the right to vote,” Walker said.

Walker’s ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by the Florida Democratic Party on Sunday over Governor Rick Scott’s refusal to extend the deadline for those affected by the storm. The League of Women Voters and the ACLU intervened in the case.

Nancy Abudu, an attorney for the ACLU, told Walker during Wednesday’s hearing that 116,000 new voters signed up during the last week of registration before the 2012 election and that racial and ethnic minorities tend to register at higher rates toward the deadline, as do younger voters.

The case is Florida Democratic Party v. Scott, 16-cv-626, Northern District of Florida (Tallahassee).