Florida extends voter registration deadline ahead of hurricane — sort of

Florida Secretary of State Kent Detzner issued a nuanced directive Tuesday.
Published Oct. 9, 2018|Updated Oct. 9, 2018

If your supervisor of elections office is closed Tuesday, you can register to vote on paper the day it reopens. But if it's open, you have to register by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday if you want to vote this November.

That's according to a directive issued by Florida Secretary of State Kent Detzner Tuesday ahead of the anticipated landfall of Hurricane Michael.

Voters hoping to register online at will have to do so ahead of the 11:59 p.m. deadline regardless of the activity of their elections supervisor. Detzner's new directive applies only to people turning in paper voter registration forms.

Detzner urged individual county elections supervisors to notify the state if they plan to be closed Tuesday. Neither the Department of Elections nor the Department of State could immediately be reached for comment, so it's unclear whether any counties have taken the state up on the offer.

The secretary of state's directive was not good enough for Florida Democrats. Sen. Bill Nelson sent a letter this week to Detzner asking the state to extend its voter registration deadline. And The Florida Democratic Party announced Tuesday morning that it was filing a last-minute legal complaint in an attempt to get the state to extend the registration deadline until October 16.

"Thousands of eligible Florida voters who are complying with evacuation requests and preparing for the storm may not have the opportunity to register to vote as a result of Hurricane Michael," FDP Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a statement. "Governor Scott and Secretary Detzner have failed to adequately protect the rights of these eligible voters, and should extend the deadline one week in light of Hurricane Michael."

Marc E. Elias, the onetime general counsel for Hillary Clinton, was the lawyer who filed the injunction for the Democrats. Read the party's full legal complaint here.

The Republican Party of Florida fired back in a press release of its own Tuesday afternoon, calling the lawsuit "reprehensible."

"Governor Scott's administration has already issued an order to keep voter registration open an extra day to accept paper registrations in the areas affected by the storm," RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement. "Only an organization that is playing politics with people's lives would ask for voter registration to be extended by a full week in this state's most densely populated Democrat areas, almost nine hours and a time zone away."

A couple dozen voting rights groups, including the ACLU of Florida, also wrote a joint letter to the secretary of state's office urging Florida to extend its deadline.

Times Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.