State Watch

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. 

“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 DeSantis (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. 

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 Biden currently leads President Trump 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 Clinton, a win that played a large role in securing Trump the election.

Tags 2020 election 2020 polling Associated Press court ruling Donald Trump Florida Hillary Clinton Joe Biden online voter registration Quinnipiac University Reuters Ron DeSantis voter registration deadline

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