Judge extends Florida voter registration deadline six days

NEW YORK Residents of Florida were given six extra days to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election by a U.S. judge on Wednesday after the disruption caused by powerful Hurricane Matthew in the state last week.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee extended the registration deadline to Oct. 18, after the Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit seeking more time, court records showed. The original deadline to register had been Tuesday.

Florida Democrats had argued that voters were forced to decide between their safety and their right to vote when Republican Governor Rick Scott ordered mandatory evacuations along a stretch of the state’s Atlantic coast as Matthew approached.

“No right is more precious than having a voice in our elections,” Walker said during a hearing on Wednesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The governor’s office did not immediately comment on the judge’s order.

The powerful hurricane, which killed around 1,000 people in Haiti as it churned through the Caribbean, is blamed for at least 30 deaths in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. North Carolina officials have warned of continued flooding this week from swollen rivers.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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