A federal court judge has extended Florida’s voter registration deadline.
In a court order Monday, District Court Judge Mark E. Walker directed the state’s top elections official to extend the voter registration deadline to 5 p.m. Wednesday. The one-day extension comes just one day after the Florida Democratic Party sued Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner over the deadline.
The deadline to vote was Tuesday, but Florida Democrats said the deadline should be extended because of Hurricane Matthew.
Democrats argued Scott’s decision not to extend the deadline beyond Tuesday would “prevent thousands of Florida residents in the areas affected by Hurricane Matthew from registering and voting in the upcoming general election.” Democrats also argued the decision not to extend the deadline “directly harms FDP, its members, and its constituents.”
In his order, Walker said it was “unquestionable that plaintiff and its members would suffer irreparable injury” if the deadline wasn’t extended.
“This is not a case where failing to grant the requested relief would be a mere inconvenience to plaintiff and it members,” the judge wrote. “Instead, if aspiring eligible Florida voters are barred from registering to vote then those voters are stripped of one of our most precious freedoms. This isn’t golf: there are no mulligans. Once the voter registration deadline passes, there can be no do-over and no redress.”
Walker said the case “pits the fundamental right to vote against administrative convenience.” While the state has the ability to set its own deadlines, Walker wrote it would “be nonsensical to prioritize those deadlines over the right to vote, especially given the circumstances here.”
Hurricane Matthew killed more than 500 people in Haiti last week, before sideswiping hundreds of miles of the U.S. coastline from Florida through Georgia. Scott spent the days leading up to the storm urging Floridians to evacuate.
Scott, the chairman of a super PAC backing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, was asked to extend the deadline to vote last week, but declined to do so.
“I’m not going to extend it. Everybody has had a lot of time to register,” the governor said during a news conference Thursday. “On top of that, we’ve got lots of opportunities to vote: Early voting, absentee voting and Election Day. So I don’t intend to make any changes.”
In his order, Walker acknowledged some have suggested the request to extend the registration deadline is “about politics.”
“Poppycock,” wrote Walker. “This case is about the right of aspiring eligible voters to register and to have their votes counted. Nothing could be more fundamental to our democracy.”