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Six More Days For Voter Registration In Florida

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Voter registration will run for six more days in the battleground state of Florida, until October 18, due to the disruption and damage from Hurricane Matthew.

At a 40-minute hearing in Tallahassee, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker approved the Florida Democratic Party’s request for an injunction, to extend registration and  give third-party groups that much time to continue to sign up new voters.

Democrats had asked Gov. Rick Scott to extend the deadline, but Scott turned down the request.  

“Everybody has had a lot of time to register,” said the Governor. “On top of that we’ve got lots of opportunities to vote. Early voting, absentee voting and Election Day, so I don’t intend to make any changes.”

Judge Walker said more than 100,000 "aspiring eligible" Florida voters are likely to register between now and the new deadline. Some of those likely will be in Escambia County, where David Stafford is Elections Supervisor.

“We’ve got enough to focus in on,” said Stafford. “We’re continuing the train poll workers, and send out vote-by-mail ballots. Plus, getting ready for our historic levels of early in-person voting that will begin on October 24 and run for 13 consecutive, 12-hour days.”

Okaloosa County Supervisor Paul Lux urges those not yet registered to vote, both eligible Floridians and those moving from out-of-state, to take advantage of the extra week.

“If you have moved to Florida in the last weeks or months, and you haven’t had a chance to register to vote yet, you cannot transfer that registration from another state into Florida,” said Lux. “You have to register brand new in Florida. Most of us have extended hours; take advantage of those and the extended time that the court gives.”

Changes in election procedure in the wake of Mother Nature has some precedent in the western Panhandle. Hurricane Ivan struck less than two months before the 2004 presidential vote, when Bonnie Jones ran Escambia County’s elections office.

“We had 31 polling locations that are OK, they’re confirmed that we can use them,” said Jones in 2004. “We have four precincts in two locations; we’re going to have to relocate those.”

Jones spoke to WUWF’s Sandra Averhart a couple of weeks after the storm.

“We will have extended early voting hours; anybody that wants to come down to the [Supervisor’s] office beginning on October 18 and vote, and we will extend t those hours,” said Jones. “We will try to have as normal an election as we possibly can.”

Fast forward back to the present. Santa Rosa Elections Supervisor Tappie Villane says the standard voting methods in all 67 counties are untouched by the court order.

“They can either drop off those forms at our office locations either in Milton or the annex office in Gulf Breeze,” Villane said. “Or if they want to mail the form, it must be postmarked by October 18.”

Gov. Scott’s office offered no defense at the hearing for keeping the Wednesday deadline in place. Spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said on Tuesday, that the state would accept the court's decision.

More information is available at your county’s supervisor of elections website.