Florida’s refusal to extend the state’s voter registration deadline after the recent devastating hurricane is being condemned with the ACLU calling the move “unconstitutional”. Florida’s importance in the upcoming November 6th national elections raises the political stakes in the state’s decision not to act. A political firestorm with the ferocity of a hurricane has ensued.
The nonprofit Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has released a letter that they sent to the Florida Secretary of State and Division of Elections on the October 9th deadline. The letter called on the Secretary of State and Division of Elections to immediately extend the state’s voter registration deadline but the deadline passed without state action. According to a press statement by Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
“It is impossible for Florida to close its registration deadline today given the emergency evacuation orders now in place as a result of Hurricane Michael and in the wake of significant evidence that the state’s online registration portal has collapsed. Would-be voters across Florida deserve a reasonable opportunity to participate in this election cycle and will be disenfranchised if the state fails to act now. We intend to use every tool in our arsenal, including litigation, to protect voting rights for Florida’s residents under these dire circumstances.”
Since no action was taken by the state, a lawsuit was filed as explained in a blog post by Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project Julie Ebenstein:
“Florida’s refusal to extend the deadline statewide is not just nonsensical, it violates voters’ 14th Amendment rights, which protect against unnecessary burdens on the right to vote. Late last night, we filed a federal lawsuit, along with the ACLU of Florida and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, seeking a statewide extension of the voter registration deadline. “
Common Cause Florida is also part of the lawsuit. There was also evidence that the state’s online voter registration portal collapsed leading up to the registration deadline. Ebenstein, a graduate of Fordham University School of Law in New York City, explains:
“Florida’s online voter registration system was only functioning sporadically in the days before the deadline. After glitches before the primary election registration deadline, the ACLU and others repeatedly warned Florida about website issues and predicted that voters would face OVR problems before the general election registration deadline if the state did not address them. Despite the warnings and ongoing reports from Floridians unable to register online, the state did not take precautions.”
Kristen Clarke also had a message for the public, “We urge Floridians who have been impacted and who are unable to register to vote to contact our non-partisan Election Protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE for help.”