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Judge won't let Florida extend voter registration deadline

Judge won't let Florida extend voter registration deadline
© Greg Nash

A federal judge on Friday ruled against a motion to extend voter registration in Florida just three days after a technical issue on the state’s website may have prevented thousands of people from voting in next month’s general election. 

U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Walker called his decision "an incredibly close call" in his 29-page ruling on Friday, but said that “Florida’s interest in preventing chaos in its already precarious — and perennially chaotic — election outweighs the substantial burden imposed on the right to vote.” 

Walker added that “this Court is not persuaded that an injunction, at this juncture, would not be adverse to the public interest,” and that he was “mindful of the potential for voter confusion that could result” from an order extending the voter registration deadline. 

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“More importantly, though, this Court has before it almost no record evidence to persuade it that exasperating the already extraordinary burdens the state’s supervisors of elections face in the midst of a pandemic is in the public interest,” the judge concluded. 

The decision comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantis Florida officials were asked to avoid public statements on coronavirus before election: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates DeSantis doubles down on Trump-backed coronavirus approach MORE (R) extended the state’s voter registration deadline through 7 p.m. Tuesday after the website crashed on Monday, the state’s initial registration cutoff. 

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) had called on DeSantis to expand the deadline by at least 24 hours in a letter earlier Tuesday.

“The deadline exists for a reason — and it is the right of every person in Florida who chooses to register to vote, to do so up until that deadline,” Fried said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

According to The Associated Press, data filed by the state indicates that 50,000 people registered during the extended period. The judge noted that based on previous trends, potentially more than 20,000 additional people might have also registered to vote if a glitch had not occurred on the state voter website. 

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According to data from the United States Elections Project, run by Michael McDonald of the University of Florida, almost 1.2 million people have already cast their ballots in the state less than a month away from Election Day. 

Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE currently leads President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE by a small margin among voters in the Sunshine State. A Reuters-Ipsos poll released Wednesday found the former vice president ahead of Trump in Florida by only 4 percentage points. 

However, a recent survey from Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday showed Biden leading by 11 points in the Southern battleground state with more than 50 percent of the vote.

In 2016, Trump won the state’s 29 electoral votes by just 1 percentage point over former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary and Chelsea Clinton to host series based on their book 'Gutsy Women' Democrats see spike in turnout among Asian American, Pacific Islander voters Biden officially announces ex-Obama official Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE, a win that played a large role in securing Trump the election.