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Overruling Scott, Judge Orders Voter Registration Deadline Extended at Least Through Wednesday

| October 11, 2016

gov rick scott registration

Gov. Rick Scott, in Flagler Beach yesterday, had said Florida’s registration period had lasted long enough when he refused to extend the deadline because of Hurricane Matthew. (© FlaglerLive)

Get your voter registration application here.

A federal judge ordered a one-day extension in Florida’s voter registration deadline and seemed ready to consider a longer delay against the backdrops of the recovery from Hurricane Matthew and one of the most heated presidential races in decades.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the state should continue accepting voter registration papers through 5 p.m. Wednesday. He also set up a Wednesday morning hearing to consider a request by the Florida Democratic Party to keep registration open until Oct. 18 — a week after the initial deadline was set to pass.

The Flagler County Elections Office will be open for extended hours today and tomorrow, October 11 and 12, to accept voter registration applications. Hours on Tuesday and Wednesday will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. That’s only a half-hour extension at either end of the day, however, a relatively stingy extension compared with St. Johns County, which opened on Saturday and is staying open today until 7 p.m., as it did on Monday.

To ensure every Flagler County citizen has the opportunity to register to vote, Florida Voter Registration Applications are now available outside the Elections Office for voters who may visit the office after hours on Tuesday. The application is always available online and voters may also use the drop box after hours at the entrance of the Elections Office to return the application.

“It has been suggested that the issue of extending the voter registration deadline is about politics. Poppycock,” Walker wrote in a 16-page ruling. “This case is about the right of aspiring eligible voters to register and to have their votes counted. Nothing could be more fundamental to our democracy.”

Still, politics swirled around the case less than a month before Florida could play a decisive role in the presidential race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and Republican Donald Trump. The lawsuit was filed by the Florida Democratic Party after Gov. Rick Scott, who heads a super PAC supporting Trump, said he would not extend the registration deadline in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

Matthew lashed the state’s eastern coast and Flagler County late last week, prompting tens of thousands of Floridians to evacuate. Local, state and federal officials urged residents to flee, arguing that staying behind could prove fatal. At least half a dozen deaths in Florida have been attributed to the storm and its aftermath, though none in Flagler.

Throughout his order, Walker indicated he was sympathetic to voters affected by the storm.

“These voters have already had their lives (and, quite possibly, their homes) turned up-side down by Hurricane Matthew,” he wrote. “They deserve a break, especially one that is mandated by the United States Constitution.”

Judge Mark Walker. (Florida State University)

Judge Mark Walker. (Florida State University)

Walker is a 1989 graduate of the University of Florida and 1992 graduate of the law school there. A former assistant public defender and circuit judge, he was appointed to the federal bench by President Obama in 2012.

In the initial lawsuit, filed late Sunday, lawyers for the Democratic Party argued it was unfair for Scott to warn residents to follow evacuation orders ahead of the storm while at the same time refusing to give people more time to register after the storm displaced them and forced government offices to close. “On Thursday, October 6,” the complaint read, Scott “unambiguously ordered Florida citizens to ‘evacuate, evacuate, evacuate’ the areas in Hurricane Matthew’s path. ‘There are no excuses. You need to leave,’ he told Floridians. ‘This storm will kill you. Time is running out.'” The areas affected included large swaths of Flagler County, Volusia and St Johns. The same day, Scott “refused to extend the voter registration deadline for the very citizens heeding his orders to evacuate—forcing voters to choose between their safety and the safety of their families, on one hand, and their fundamental right to vote, on the other hand.”

Walker agreed. “Florida’s statutory framework is unconstitutional even if rational basis review applied (which it does not),” Walker wrote. “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.”

The filing also said the effects of the decision not to extend the deadline will hurt some voters more than others. The party argues in its lawsuit that minority voters are more likely to register closer to the election, and that voters in parts of the state untouched by Hurricane Matthew will face fewer obstacles to signing up.

“Quite simply, it is wholly irrational in this instance for Florida to refuse to extend the voter registration deadline.”

In a statement issued late Monday, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant cheered the decision.

“We are thrilled with today’s ruling and we look forward to making our case on Wednesday for extending the voter registration deadline to October 18th,” she said. “This is a win for the people of Florida.”

The registration deadline has become a flashpoint in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, one month ahead of Election Day in one of the most heated presidential campaigns in recent political history. The Democrats’ lawsuit was announced less than two hours before a testy debate between Trump and Clinton.

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida’s 10 Democratic U.S. House members sent a letter to Scott urging him to extend the deadline. But Scott had already signaled he was unlikely to do so.

“Everybody has had a lot of time to register,” Scott said Thursday.

Clinton’s campaign announced Monday morning that she and former Vice President Al Gore would focus on voter registration Tuesday during a campaign stop in Miami. President Bill Clinton is also set to promote voter registration on a Tuesday swing through Palm Beach, Lee and Pinellas counties.

Walker said some 100,000 people were likely to register. Democrats have a registration advantage overall in Florida, but Republicans have been narrowing the gap, from about half a million to a quarter million: as of the end of August, Democrats had an advantage of 274,272, according to the state Division of Elections. Since January, Republicans have out-registered Democrats in Florida, 250,000 to 198,000.

–FlaglerLive and the News Service of Florida

Florida Democratic Party v. Rick Scott (2016)

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10 Responses for “Overruling Scott, Judge Orders Voter Registration Deadline Extended at Least Through Wednesday”

  1. Charge this commission with fraud says:

    Crooks this republican ,police state movement,is all corrupt.From the deputies who back then who should be democrat since when does a labor union like fraternal order of police back republicans?For the hard working citizens who get ripped of daily from voting rights,to high taxes injustices in the justice system ,one day web will all regret .Not coming together to fix this country.The rich or not so rich have clubs meetings dinners all to screw the hard working guy.Bringing home a Couple dollars out great governor is proof of the corruption in Florida .Who does that ?

  2. Fplsux says:

    ha I wondered how long until the reversion to political spew. I’m sure there is no local stories or suffering to report on. And an extra day geez how did Hilary say it in her recently released emails keep them “an unaware and compliant citizenry”.

    I’m sure voter registrations by informed voters who never registered are lined up out the doors…

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Sux, we are able to chew gum and walk at the same time. Put another way, we can report on essential hurricane recovery, as we have assiduously for the past three days, and report on equally essential voting rights development. Good to see you are holier than all of us put together, but please, be indulgent to us less fortunate and foreseeing than thou.

  3. Knightwatch says:

    Excellent! Need even more days. The Republicans’ last gasp effort to avoid disaster is to restrict voting. It won’t work.

    Vote early… VOTE BLUE across the board. You don’t know who to vote for, contact the Democratic Executive Committee or go online.

  4. jasonb says:

    I just can’t picture Abraham Lincoln grabbing any woman by the p***y, the Republican party sure has gone downhill.

  5. Robjr says:

    I am not a scientist so I can not give an opinion.

  6. Sherry says:

    Thank you Flagler Live! You have done an exemplary job on keeping the latest important information coming out to our community during this disaster. Those of you who do not appreciate the excellent work of Flagler Live. . . please do us all a great favor and crawl back to FOX for your “up to the minute” local reporting! We really do not appreciate your ignorant, foul mouthed comments!

    Regarding this important issue of our “constitutional” right to vote. . . Thank You Again Flagler Live for bringing this typical dastardly, political move by our governor to our attention. In the cover of our storm disaster, Scott has reverted to his slimy effort to stop ALL citizens from voting! So glad the court didn’t let the storm to distract them from a reasonable decision.

  7. Uss says:

    Ignorant, you say? There is no right to vote enumerated in the constitution. This from msnbc a far left site you can trust!

  8. Sherry says:

    Eligibility to vote in the United States is established both through the federal constitution and by state law. Several constitutional amendments (the 15th, 19th, and 26th specifically) require that voting rights cannot be abridged on account of race, color, previous condition of servitude, sex, or age for those above 18. Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, and related laws, voting rights have been legally considered an issue related to election systems.

  9. Cindy J says:

    If you really want change, you must reject Republicans AND Democrats wherever possible on the ballot. Otherwise, you’ll continue to get what you have now–a lot of lip service and nothing substantial gets done.

    Folks, this is the best shot we’ve had in decades to break the iron grip of the fixed, crooked, good-cop-bad-cop con job of a 2-party system. Please, for the love of all that is holy, TAKE IT. Especially if you think voting is rigged. If you believe that, you definitely have nothing to lose by voting Green or Libertarian….

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