Extra week of voter registration could yield 64,000 new voters
The extra week of voter registration across Florida that Gov. Rick Scott initially opposed has already produced nearly 37,000 new voters and the increase will keep growing in the coming days as Florida sets an all-time record in the total number of voters.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner reported late Tuesday that 36,823 voter registration forms were verified and are active in the state voter database and that another 26,773 applicants are being verified for a potential bounty of nearly 64,000 additional voters, with an undetermined additional number of forms being mailed that haven't yet arrived at county elections offices.
To put that number in perspective, Scott won re-election as governor two years ago by 64,145 votes.
Detzner said every voter registration application must be verified using voters' Social Security numbers and Florida driver license numbers to confirm voters' IDs. Once that verification is done by the federal Social Security Administration or state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the information is sent to a county supervisor of elections who adds the voter to the rolls.
"The Department will devote more than 65 staff members to assist in this process up until election day," Detzner said in a release. "Of this number, 19 staff members are trained and approved by the state to enter and handle sensitive voter information."
Scott last week rejected calls by Democrats to extend the voter registration deadline past Oct. 11 because of Hurricane Matthew, so Democrats sued the state and requested an extra week. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee approved the extension, first for one day and then for six more days, and attorneys for Scott and Detzner officially took no position in court on the extension. Scott, quoting from Walker's decision, later said he lacked the legal authority to extend the registration period.
The voter sign-up period ended at 5 p.m. Tuesday, but any forms mailed that were postmarked by Tuesday are also considered valid.
The state did not provide a breakdown of new voters by party. That information won't be available until sometime next week at the earliest, Detzner's office said.
The state's largest county, Miami-Dade, has been a hotbed of new voter registration activity. The Miami Herald's Alex Harris reported boxes and trays full of new forms were left at the offices of Supervisor of Elections Christina White on Tuesday afternoon.
The Miami-Dade voter roll grew by more than 38,000 voters to 1,307,458, during the two months between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30, far more than any other county in Florida, according to the state Division of Elections web site. Miami-Dade is a strongly Democratic county and the majority of its voters are Hispanic, a key voting bloc in the upcoming elections for president between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and for U.S. Senate between Sen. Marco Rubio of West Miami and Rep. Patrick Murphy.
In Miami, some people knew about the deadline extension and were taking advantage of it. Kaan Canusgurlu, a 20-year-old man who was born in Boston but spent all but the last two months in Turkey, registered with no party affiliation and said he knew about the extension.