Federal judge extends Fla. voter registration deadline

TALLAHASSEE — A federal judge Wednesday extended Florida's voter registration deadline to Oct. 18 in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker said his decision would provide people along Florida's east coast with time to register that they lost when Matthew began to roll in Thursday, closing local and state government offices.

"There is no right no more precious than to have a voice in this election," said Walker. "This law does not tell the Legislature what to do.

"There was a storm and that's why we're here."

Walker's preliminary injunction was the conclusion of a lawsuit filed Sunday by the Florida Democratic Party, which requested the extension after Gov. Rick Scott refused it in advance of the storm last week. Walker issued a temporary injunction Monday that extended the registration deadline to Wednesday. Walker wrote in that temporary order that because state law did not actually provide Scott with powers to extend voter registration, he was not actually a defendant in the case.

"There's a gap in Florida law that is untenable," Walker said.

Lawyers for Scott and Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner provided no opposition, leaving lawyers for the Democratic Party to explain why the state required an extra week. Lawyer Kevin Hamilton said the emergency orders that Scott issued before Matthew hit the state shut down government operations. The massive power outages in the wake of the storm also made voter registration impossible.Detzner provided no opposition, leaving lawyers for the Democratic Party to explain why the state required an extra week. Lawyer Kevin Hamilton said the emergency orders that Scott issued before Matthew hit the state shut down government operations. The massive power outages in the wake of the storm also made voter registration impossible.

"These citizens deserve the opportunity to vote after the storm impacted their property," Hamilton said.

Follow Arek Sarkissian on Twitter: @ArekSarkissian


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