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Federal Judge Extends Florida Voter Registration Deadline

The decision comes after voting advocacy groups filed a lawsuit arguing more than 100,000 voters could be disenfranchised because of disruptions caused by Hurricane Matthew.

October 12, 2016

Move Comes After Lawsuit from Voting Advocacy Groups

A federal judge in Tallahassee today extended Florida’s voter registration deadline to October 18 after voting advocacy groups filed a lawsuit arguing more than 100,000 voters could be disenfranchised because of disruptions caused by Hurricane Matthew.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, along with counsel from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and pro bono counsel Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, released the following statements after the decision:

“We’ll now be able to make up for lost time and help register people whose lives were disrupted by the storm,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “Our goal is to help every Floridian register, vote, and be heard, and we’re grateful that the storm did not silence their voices.”

“Federal law requires the state to provide voters with enough time to register before the election,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “With this extension, more citizens will be able to exercise their most fundamental right in our democracy.”

“We know there are Floridians who intended to register but could not because the infrastructure that’s needed to do so was shut down in the storm,” said Robert A. Atkins, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, representing the plaintiffs, and co-chair of the Center’s Board of Directors. “This expanded window allows them to have a say on November 8.”

The Florida League argued in the suit that more time is necessary to ensure Floridians have sufficient time to register, as required by federal law, and to ensure that the organization can accomplish its mission of helping as many citizens as possible be heard this November. Half of the group’s chapters in the state had to cancel registration drives because of the storm, including in four of the five most populous counties in the state.

In past presidential elections, up to 20 percent of all new registrations received in Florida during an election year occurred in the week before the registration deadline. In 2012, more than 150,000 Floridians registered to vote in the nine days leading up to the state deadline. Federal law also requires Florida to give voters no less than 30 days before Election Day to obtain and submit a valid voter registration form. But the government agencies needed to facilitate successful registrations were disrupted by the storm. State and county offices in 43 counties were closed. Post offices were also shut down, in addition to closures Monday in observance of Columbus Day.

Judge Mark Walker initially extended the deadline one day, to today, in response to a lawsuit filed by the Florida Democratic Party.