Floridians are bracing for a potentially catastrophic storm, slated to hit its panhandle on Wednesday. In turn, many residents have found themselves asking how Hurricane Michael is affecting Florida's voter registration, which is scheduled to wrap up this week. Fourteen states have voter registration deadlines on Oct. 9, but so far only the Sunshine State has allowed for an extension. As of Tuesday afternoon, Hurricane Michael is already a category 3 storm, and weather experts warn that the weather system could be devastating.
States whose deadlines are or were scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 9 are: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana (paper), Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.
Florida officials have extended the state's voter registration deadline to Wednesday, largely because some evacuations have forced residents to leave and in turn have closed down some registration sites, according to The Washington Post. However, voter registration will only be extended in counties where registration offices are closed on Tuesday, according to a directive issued by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Florida Democrats say that extension isn't long enough.
Notably, per the Post, the one day extension currently only applies to paper registration. This means that Florida voters will not be allowed to register online after Tuesday is over. Democrats are currently suing to extend voter registration for one whole week.
"Thousands of eligible Florida voters who are complying with evacuation requests and preparing for the storm may not have the opportunity to register to vote as a result of Hurricane Michael," Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a statement. "Governor Scott and Secretary Detzner have failed to adequately protect the rights of these eligible voters, and should extend the deadline one week in light of Hurricane Michael."
While proponents are arguing that a lengthened voter registration deadline extension is needed because of inclement weather, the extension quandary appears to have become a party issue. While Democrats are fighting to grant more time for would-be Florida voters, Republicans are arguing that it is unnecessary.
"Governor Scott's administration has already issued an order to keep voter registration open an extra day to accept paper registrations in the areas affected by the storm," Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement. "Only an organization that is playing politics with people's lives would ask for voter registration to be extended by a full week in this state’s most densely populated Democrat areas, almost nine hours and a time zone away. The Republican Party of Florida calls on Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson to condemn this lawsuit and call it what it is...crony politics."
Nearby states with looming voter registration deadlines haven't opted to extend them. However, current projections show that Florida is the only state in Hurricane Michael's direct landfall path, though the storm will undoubtedly impact the state's neighbors. Unfortunately for Florida, the battle has devolved into a partisan argument. Unless courts rule in favor of Democrats, it's unlikely that the deadline will change.