A federal judge has denied a motion to extend voter registration in Florida even though a computer meltdown on the final day of registration might have prevented thousands of potential voters from taking part in November’s presidential election.
In a 29-page ruling on Friday morning, U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Walker said his decision was “an incredibly close call” but added that “the state’s interest in preventing chaos in its already precarious — and perennially chaotic — election outweighs the substantial burden imposed on the right to vote.”
Walker noted the historical problems that the state seems to have with elections.
“Notwithstanding the fact that cinemas across the country remain closed, somehow, I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. Just shy of a month from election day, with the earliest mail-in ballots beginning to be counted, Florida has done it again,” Walker wrote.
Monday was the final day for potential voters to register for the November presidential election. In the wake of the computer slowdown, Secretary of State Laurel Lee reopened the registration for seven hours Tuesday, after consulting with Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Data filed by the state indicates that 50,000 people registered during the extended time period. Based on previous trends, the judge noted, perhaps more than 20,000 additional people might have also registered to vote if they had been able to access the system.
Walker faulted a state lawyer’s argument that other venues were available to register to vote, including in person at an elections office or by mail.
“With the public sounding the alarm, the secretary of state decided to implement a half-measure,” Walker wrote. “She hastily and briefly extended the registration period and ordered Florida’s supervisors of election to accept applications submitted by the secretary’s new ‘book closing’ deadline.”
Walker wrote that Lee’s “cure”
Florida’s voting website crashed repeatedly in the hours before Monday’s registration deadline, leading to accusations of voter suppression.
Florida’s voter registration website crashed on Monday, giving users error messages and causing delays, after an “unprecedented” number of people tried to register before the state’s midnight deadline.
Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, the state’s top elections official, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said on Tuesday that she had briefed the governor on the “challenges we encountered last night.”
“We’re exploring all options to ensure that all eligible registrants have the ability to register to vote and will work with our state and federal law-enforcement partners to ensure this was not a deliberate act against the voting process,” Ms. Lee said in a statement.
She first acknowledged slowdowns with the website on Monday evening. “Due to high volume, for about 15 minutes, some users experienced delays while trying to register,” Ms. Lee wrote on Twitter. “We have increased capacity.”
On Monday night, as the technical problems continued, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Campaign Legal Center sent a letter demanding that the deadline be extended until midnight on Tuesday.
“Otherwise, we may be forced to consider other legal remedies,” the groups wrote.
Florida has faced similar problems with its voter registration system before. Monday’s issues led Democrats to accuse the state, which also has a Republican-controlled Legislature, of voter suppression.
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Broward County, blamed the “utter incompetence” of Mr. DeSantis, whose administration faced a crisis this year with the collapse of its online unemployment benefits system amid the pandemic.
“This particular blunder intimates a continuing pattern of voter suppression that the governor has become notorious for,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said. “The governor must immediately extend the registration deadline to make up for all the voters he’s disenfranchised.”
Would-be first-time voters may not get a chance to vote after all.
With the clock ticking on Florida’s midnight deadline to register to vote, some people are encountering problems with the state’s registration website, prompting frustrated calls for the state’s leaders to extend the deadline.
Just before 6 p.m., Secretary of State Laurel Lee posted on Twitter announcing that the website’s functions had been restored and that a “high volume” of visitors had caused delays for about 15 minutes.
Hours after the announcement, however, the website was still giving people fits.
Destinee Morin, a recent high school graduate from St. Cloud, who is already registered, has spent much of Monday unsuccessfully refreshing the website, Registertovoteflorida.gov, in an attempt to register two friends, both of them teenagers and would-be first-time voters.
Morin said she has been having problems since mid-afternoon.
“If the website is down, that’s not fair. A lot of people went on that website today because they didn’t realize it was their last day to register,” she said. “I really hope they extend it.”
Kyle Redula, 20, a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, was excited about registering to vote for the first time, only to find himself struggling for hours with the website Monday. As of 10 p.m. EST, he was still receiving error messages.
“It’s definitely something that I was looking forward to,” he told ABC News.
Oct. 5 is the final day for Floridians to register to be eligible to vote Nov. 3; and just hours before the deadline, the state’s website is experiencing issues.
Registertovoteflorida.gov is the official website Floridians can use to register to vote ahead of the general election. Multiple reports have surfaced of users being unable to access the site or of people experiencing a slow response from the website.
The official cut off to register to vote in Florida is 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 5.
10 Tampa Bay has reached out to election officials for more information about the situation but has not yet received a response. However, Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee confirmed there had been problems Monday evening. According to her, those issues were linked to a high volume of people trying to register at once.
“We have increased capacity. You can register until midnight tonight,” Lee tweeted. “Thank you to those who immediately brought this to our attention.”
OVR is online and working. Due to high volume, for about 15 minutes, some users experienced delays while trying to register. We have increased capacity. You can register until midnight tonight.
Thank you to those who immediately brought this to our attention.
— Laurel M. Lee (@FLSecofState) October 5, 2020
This is a developing story; check back with 10 Tampa Bay for updates.
Anyone else having issues?? With just about 6 hours left until the deadline to register to vote in #Florida, the website appears to be down. Nothing is loading for me. @10TampaBay @FLSecofState https://t.co/MYUZuUmxXm
— Josh Sidorowicz WTSP (@JoshWTSP) October 5, 2020
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