Hurricane Matthew Won't Affect Florida's Voter Registration Deadline, But It Could Seriously Impact Turnout
Hurricane Matthew shows no signs of slowing down, and Florida Governor Rick Scott has accordingly urged Floridians living in areas where the storm has been predicted to strike to evacuate. But for those who've evacuated due to Hurricane Matthew, registering to vote in Florida could become more of a challenge than it already is. South Carolina authorities have spoken about extending the deadline by which voters must register before the presidential election. But Scott has a different take on the situation in Florida.
“I’m not going to extend it,” the governor told reporters. “Everybody has had a lot of time to register. On top of that, we have lots of opportunities to vote: early voting, absentee voting, Election Day. So I don’t intend to make any changes.”
Scott’s statement about there being plenty of opportunities to vote doesn’t change the fact that if a citizen isn’t registered to vote in the first place, they can’t participate in any of these various voting methods. The deadline to register to vote for the November presidential election in Florida is Oct. 11 — less than a month before the election. Unfortunately, with Matthew in the mix, voters living in impacted areas might be unable to get those last minute registrations in.
Registering to vote in any state can be difficult for reasons out of the control of the person registering, especially since bureaucracy is involved. I myself had to attempt to register to vote on four separate occasions before I was finally registered, and there wasn't even a presidential race in the coming year at stake.
During the 2012 presidential race, 1.8 million Floridians had requested ballots by this point in the election, Robby Mook, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, told the Los Angeles Times. Now, more than 2.7 million Floridians have requested ballots, Mook said, and registered Democrats are registering to vote early by mail at higher rates than registered Republicans. Requests from Hispanic voters to cast early ballots are also up 77 percent from this point four years ago, Mook explained.
And the number of people who vote, especially in a swing state like Florida, is significant. Florida residents can register to vote in person by Oct. 11 through any “voter registration agency,” a government entity designated either by the National Voter Registration Act or by state law which allows you to apply to register to vote. These voter registration agencies include the DMV, armed force recruitment offices, public libraries, public assistance offices (such as the Department of Health’s WIC program), and any office that primarily serves persons with disabilities, among others.
You can also register to vote via mail by sending in a Florida Voter Registration Application. In order to do so, you can either pick up in person from your County Supervisor of Elections or fill out the voter registration form online and print it. For some reason, you can also obtain the application form from organizations authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to issue permits for fishing, hunting, or trapping. The Voter Registration Application should then be mailed to the office of your County Supervisor of Elections. Currently, registered voters should also make sure to check their voter status and polling place online.
If you live in Florida and you haven't registered yet, your priority should obviously be your own safety. But if you're in a safe place, you should find out whether getting your application in before the deadline is a possibility.