A Florida judge has extended the state’s voter registration deadline until Wednesday and will consider giving voters even more time to sign up after Hurricane Matthew barreled through the state, The Tampa Bay Times and the Associated Press reported on Monday.
“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,” US District Judge Mark Walker wrote in his order.
“If aspiring eligible Florida voters are barred from registering to vote, then those voters are stripped of one of our most precious freedoms,” he added.
The extension comes after Florida Gov. Rick Scott refused to extend the deadline when the hurricane struck the state Friday prompting 1.5 million Florida residents to evacuate.
Matthew’s devastation resulted in as many as 21 dead in the US and hundreds more in Haiti, CNN reported.
Florida’s original registration deadline was set for Tuesday, but on Monday Judge Walker agreed to issue an extension giving voters until 5 p.m. Wednesday to register and will decide on a longer period.
“Everybody has had a lot of time to register,” Scott said on Thursday during a briefing on the hurricane. “On top of that, we have lots of opportunities to vote: early voting, absentee voting, Election Day. So I don’t intend to make any changes.”
Florida Democrats argued that not extending the deadline during the crucial lead-up to the election would effectively disenfranchise many Florida voters.
For instance, voters who mailed in their registration forms while mail service was suspended in the midst of the storm may have missed the registration cutoff.
Walker estimates more than 100,000 voters are expected to register before the deadline. The judge is expected to hold a hearing on Wednesday to determine whether the registration deadline can be extended to October 18.
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