TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Oct. 10 (UPI) — A federal judge on Monday extended the voter registration deadline in Florida by one day, giving voters until Wednesday to get their registrations in the mail and be eligible to participate in November’s election.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted the Florida Democratic Party’s request for the extension after Hurricane Matthew, and will hear the Democrats case on Wednesday to extend the deadline by another week in the state.
Florida Governor Rick Scott refused to push back the registration deadline before and after the storm hit the state. Democrats said the evacuation of 2.5 million people and the need to prepare for a hurricane likely prevented tens of thousands of eligible voters from registering.
“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,” Walker wrote in an order extending the deadline by 24 hours, from Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. to Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. “If aspiring eligible Florida voters are barred from registering to vote, then those voters are stripped of one of our most precious freedoms.”
Scott had rejected the request by Democrats, saying “everybody has had a lot of time to register,” and said the effort was about playing politics with the election. Walker dismissed the notion as “poppycock” in his ruling, however, saying thousands of eligible citizens should be given an opportunity to register to vote.
Some counties in the state had already extended the hours of their elections offices in order to give people more time to get registrations filed. And Walker will hold a hearing Wednesday on the Democrats request to extend the registration deadline to October 18.