UPDATE: Tallahassee Federal Judge Extends Voter Registration Deadline
A Tallahassee federal judge agrees with the Florida Democratic Party and agrees to extend the voter registration deadline in the state to Tuesday, October 18th.
The Governor refused to extend the deadline despite the state being affected by Hurricane Matthew.
Judge Mark Walker initially extended the deadline to today at 5:00 and called for a special hearing this morning.
South Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz also noted concerns about today being Yom Kippur, the highest holiday in the Jewish calendar.
In today's ruling her press secretary, Geoff Burgan said: “Today's ruling is an important victory for our democracy and for every Floridian who wants to exercise his or her franchise.
“Judge Walker has rightfully taken into account the extraordinary circumstances faced by our citizens brought by Hurricane Matthew, including several days' worth of storm preparations, power outages and road closures up and down Florida's east coast. I applaud him for extending the deadline, even as Governor Rick Scott refused to do so in the wake of a natural disaster.
“In addition, Judge Walker's ruling helps preserve the franchise for many Jewish Floridians who are observing Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
“Today is a very bright day for voting rights all across the state of Florida.”
A federal judge is going to consider whether to extend the voter registration deadline in Florida again.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker will hold a hearing Wednesday in Tallahassee on whether the deadline should be further extended due to the disruption and damage caused by Hurricane Matthew.
Walker already extended the deadline one day after the Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit last weekend. Democrats had asked Governor Rick Scott to extend the October 11th deadline due to the powerful storm that scraped Florida's east coast and is being blamed for several deaths.
Scott originally turned down the request and said that people have had enough time to register but the Governor's office says they will accept the court's decision on the deadline. Republican Governors Nikki Haley in South Carolina and Chris Christie in New Jersey already extended their respective states' deadline.
"According to the judge, extending the voter registration deadline is not a decision specifically granted to the Governor of Florida, including in a declared state of emergency like Hurricane Matthew," the Governor's Communications Director, Jackie Schultz said in a statement. "Additionally, the judge stated that the Governor is not a proper party to the lawsuit. The State will follow the court’s decision and discuss with the Legislature possible amendments to current law during the upcoming legislative session."
State officials are blaming nine deaths so far on Hurricane Matthew, which is also responsible for killing eighteen people in North Carolina and more than 500 deaths in Haiti. Advocates also believe another extension is warranted because Wednesday is Yom Kippur, the highest holy day on the Jewish calendar.
"He must be afraid that the more Floridians register to vote and turn out in November, the less likely his candidate, Donald Trump, will be successful," said South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. "This should be not just a nonpartisan issue but a non-issue. We should be making it as easy to vote as possible no matter the circumstances."
The primary season saw high, sometimes record, voter turnout across the country. The Florida Division of Elections reported 46% of eligible voters in the state cast ballots in the Presidential preference primary on March 15th, the highest percentage in 40 years. There were thousands of people who registered for the first times or switched party affiliations in order to participated in the closed primary.
While some pundits have projected low voter turnout on Election Day because of the high negative ratings for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there has been strong interest in the first two debates between the candidates with a record 84 million people tuning into the first showdown. In Arizona, a record 45,000 people registered to vote online on Monday, which was the deadline to sign up in order to cast a ballot in next month's general election.