TALLAHASSEE – The looming threat of Hurricane Michael to the Florida Panhandle has brought back a recurring campaign election fight: extending voter registration deadlines for those affected by storms.
Gov. Rick Scott's administration authorized extending Tuesday's voter registration deadline in counties that closed election offices because of the storm to one day after offices are able to reopen. But hours later, Florida Democrats filed an emergency injunction asking a judge to extend the deadline by at least one week.
Democrats want the state to extend the deadline to Oct. 16.
The storm, which Scott calls “monstrous” and is projected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon as a Category 3 with winds greater than 110 mph on Florida’s Gulf Coast, has prompted the closure of state offices and other services in 35 North Florida counties.
All of the counties are under a state of emergency in anticipation of Michael, which could be the strongest hurricane to hit along the stretch of Florida's Panhandle Gulf Coast in 13 years.
“The Florida Department of State is committed to ensuring that all eligible Floridians are able to register to vote, including those Floridians who may be impacted by Hurricane Michael,” Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner wrote in a memorandum distributed late Monday night.
As a result, Detzner has authorized Supervisors of Elections whose county offices closed due to Michael to accept paper voter registration applications on the next day that their office reopens.
“This will ensure that each Supervisor of Elections Office has the same amount of days to register voters at their office,” Detzner said.
Florida Democrats, however, don’t think that amount of time is sufficient and filed an emergency injunction with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
The party argues the state government’s failure to extend the voter registration deadline “directly harms the party, its members, and constituents.”