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FDP Files Lawsuit to Extend Florida Voter Registration Deadline Due to Impact of Hurricane Matthew

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Today, the Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida against Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner concerning the devastating impact of Hurricane Matthew on Floridians who need to register to vote by the October 11 voter registration deadline.

To ensure that no citizen is disenfranchised because of the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which presented a daunting and life-threatening obstacle to registering to vote and inflicted substantial damage and loss of life, the lawsuit seeks a court order compelling Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner to extend the upcoming voter registration deadline by one week, until Tuesday, October 18. The lawsuit also asks the Court to order the Defendants to extend the deadline for Florida counties to submit early voting plans and extend the deadline for the designation of early voting sites and hours by one week, to October 16.  

Extending voter registration and voting opportunities in such times is not unprecedented. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the mid-Atlantic coast just days before the general election. To preserve the rights of voters affected by Hurricane Sandy, the states of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut postponed deadlines and took common-sense measures to prevent disenfranchisement. And, during this election cycle, South Carolina and Georgia have taken steps to address the effect of Hurricane Matthew on upcoming registration deadlines. South Carolina voluntarily extended its registration deadline to accommodate those affected by the storm and Georgia is encouraging residents to register online - an option that is unavailable in Florida. There is no conceivable reason why Florida should not follow suit. 

On Thursday, October 6, Governor Scott unambiguously ordered Florida citizens to “evacuate, evacuate, evacuate” the areas in Hurricane Matthew’s path. “There are no excuses. You need to leave,” he told Floridians. “This storm will kill you. Time is running out,” he added.  That very same day, the Governor refused to extend the voter registration deadline for the very citizens heeding his orders to evacuate—forcing voters to choose between their safety and their fundamental right to vote. Many elected officials, citizens, and organizations have called upon the Governor to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline. 

Because of Hurricane Matthew, many Floridians who would have registered to vote prior to the October 11 registration deadline have been displaced and therefore cannot register to vote. Moreover, many offices at which voters could register in person and U.S. Postal Offices where voters could submit registration applications have been closed, preventing Floridians in areas impacted by Hurricane Matthew from submitting their registration materials. As a result, enforcing the October 11 voter registration deadline disproportionately burdens the voting rights of Floridians in storm-affected areas. During a comparable period in 2012, leading up to the voter registration deadline preceding the general election, roughly 156,000 Floridians registered to vote in October before the deadline.  

Attached are the Complaint for Emergency Injunctive and Declaratory Relief against Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause, a Declaration of Marc Elias attesting to historical trends regarding 2012 pre-deadline registration in the state of Florida, and Exhibit A to the Elias Declaration.

Download: Complaint for Emergency Injunctive and Declaratory Relief against Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner

Download: Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause

Download: Declaration of Marc Elias attesting to historical trends regarding 2012 pre-deadline registration in the state of Florida

Download: Exhibit A to the Elias Declaration