The Florida Democratic Party is suing Gov. Rick Scott to extend the voter registration deadline.
The suit, filed in federal court Sunday, asks the court to order the state to extend the voter registration until Oct. 18 because of Hurricane Matthew. The suit comes just days after Scott, the chairman of a super PAC backing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, said he would not extend the voter registration deadline.
“I’m not going to extend it. Everybody has had a lot of time to register,” the governor said during a news conference Thursday. “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.”
In their suit, Democrats said Scott’s “refusal to extend the voter registration deadline in the catastrophic emergency that has made it impossible for many Floridians to register by the October 11 deadline directly harms FDP, its members, and its constituents.”
Hurricane Matthew killed more than 500 people in Haiti last week, before sideswiping hundreds of miles of the U.S. coastline from Florida through Georgia. Scott spent the days leading up to the storm urging Floridians to evacuate.
The suit argues many Floridians who would have registered to vote prior to the Oct. 11 voter registration deadline are now displaced, and can’t register to vote.
“It is likely that citizens who would otherwise register as Democrats prior to the registration deadline—or who have already registered as Democrats with a third-party voter registration agency that is being prevented, by Hurricane Matthew, from turning in that voter’s registration paperwork—will not be able to do so, thereby decreasing the overall likelihood that FDP will be successful in its efforts to help elect Democratic candidates to public office,” wrote attorney Mark Herron in the lawsuit.
The suit argues the areas affected by Hurricane Matthew include “substantial populations of minority voters, including African Americans and Latinos,” who are more likely to register to vote in “the days immediately preceding the registration deadline.”
The suit goes on to say minority voters have “suffered from, and continue to suffer from, discrimination on the basis of race, including discrimination touching on the rights to register, to vote, or to otherwise participate in the democratic process.”
“As a result, the challenged voter registration deadline will impose a disproportionate burden on the voting rights of minority voters in the storm- affected areas,” the suit argues. “That disproportionate burden will be caused by and is linked to the social and historical conditions that have produced discrimination against minorities, and the State’s insistence that it will not modestly extend the voter Registration deadline has, at best, a tenuous connection to any legitimate government policy underlying the registration deadline.”
The suit, which also names Secretary of State Ken Detzner, asks the court to extend the voter registration deadline and extend the deadline for elections officials to submit early voting plans.
Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Scott, said the Governor’s Office is reviewing the suit.
_The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.