As Hurricane Michael continues to bore down on the Florida panhandle, Democrats in the Sunshine State are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to extend the voter registration deadline for a week amid widespread complaints about an online system to sign up new voters.
Democrats have filed a lawsuit in federal court against Scott’s secretary of state, Ken Detzner, to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline, which was Tuesday, for at least a week due to Hurricane Michael and complaints of the online system being down.
“We have had hundreds of complaints about the system being down or intermittent all weekend. On 10/6/18 we only received 1 online voter registration, which is highly unusual as we usually get hundreds,” Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher told Politico in an email. “We have lines in our office and have fielded more than 1,500 calls this morning which is an unusually high volume.”
Scott has balked at extending the deadline and state officials have said any problems with the site have been fixed and that the online registration effort has been “immensely successful.”
Sarah Revell, spokeswoman for the state's elections division, told Politico the site "has been immensely successful since it launched last year and has resulted in more than 54,000 new registered voters."
"Today, the website has experienced an extremely high volume of traffic and it has caused some users to experience issues while others were able to use the site with no problems," Revell said. "The site was never down and the issues were intermittent. All issues have been resolved and the site is operational."
She added that more than 21,700 people had used the site on Tuesday to register to vote or update an application.
Despite Scott’s insistence that voter registration not be extended, Detzner is allowing a slight extension in the 35 counties that have declared a state of emergency and where the elections offices closed due to the storm. Voters will have an extra days once offices reopen to register.
“The Department’s efforts to launch voter registration online have been successful with more than 40,000 people utilizing this new tool to register to vote or update their voter registration online during the past week,” Detzner wrote Monday in a directive.
The voter registration controversy not only comes as Florida is in the midst of what could be one of the most destructive and deadly hurricanes to hit the state in decades, but as Democrats accuse Scott of engaging in voter suppression as he runs against Nelson for the seat in Congress.
According to a recent Mason-Dixon poll, Nelson has a slim one point advantage over Scott in the heated race. The pair are set to meet in a debate on Oct. 16.