A judge extended Florida’s voter registration deadline because of Hurricane Matthew, calling it “irrational” for the state to reject the idea. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Monday extended the deadline from Tuesday to 5 p.m. Wednesday and then during a hearing Wednesday, Walker extended the voter registration deadline in the battleground state to Oct. 18.
“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 a 16-page order. “If aspiring eligible Florida voters are barred from registering to vote, then those voters are stripped of one of our most precious freedoms.”
Walker also said state law is unconstitutional because while Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, can suspend or reschedule an election, no state law allows for an extension of the voter registration deadline.
“The right to vote is a ‘precious’ and ‘fundamental’ right,” Walker wrote, quoting from an earlier case.
The judge said more than 100,000 “aspiring eligible” Florida voters are likely to register in the final week before the deadline.
The Democratic Party’s lawsuit also asserted that the suspension of mail delivery at the height of the storm could result in some voter registration forms not reaching election offices by Tuesday, disenfranchising more Florida residents.
In court papers, the general counsel for Hillary Clinton’s campaign said Scott “unambiguously ordered” Florida citizens to evacuate, resulting in voters who have been prevented from being able to register.
The voter registration deadline has been extended until at least Oct. 18.
The Florida Democratic Party released a statement after Wednesday’s ruling: “We are thrilled the court agreed to extend the voter registration deadline a full week following Hurricane Matthew,” said FDP Chair Allison Tant. “While we wish it had not taken a lawsuit to get the Scott administration to do the right thing, today’s ruling is a major victory for all Floridians and for the democratic process in the Sunshine State.”