Florida’s online voter registration system appeared to encounter problems Monday evening, with only hours to go before the registration deadline for the 2020 general election.
Some Floridians attempting to access RegistertovoteFlorida.gov found slow responses or error messages.
Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who oversees the elections website, tweeted just before 6 p.m. that some users had “experienced delays while trying to register” due to high volume on the site. In the tweet, Lee said the state had increased capacity and that the problem had only occurred for about 15 minutes.
However, a Times reporter could not access the site on their mobile phone after Laurel’s tweet was sent out or an hour later.
A spokesman for the Florida Department of State did not immediately respond to a voicemail and email sent just after 6 p.m.
Floridians have until midnight to register online if they want to be eligible to vote in the 2020 general election.
Juan Peñalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, tweeted that the website problems were “voter suppression” and pointed to other times the state’s website had had problems.
Indeed, this is not the first time the state has had glitches with its voter registration website during peak demand times, including ahead of the 2018 voter registration deadline.
In June, Department of State spokesman Mark Ard said his department had “rigorously tested the online voter registration site, RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov, for capacity and we are confident that the system will be able to process and support Florida’s voters and potential voters registering or updating their voter registration before the August and November elections.”
He added that the state “will continually upgrade to increase functionality of the site and system.”
Ard did not respond at the time to specific questions about the site’s capacity or how many concurrent users the system could support.
“History is repeating itself, and Florida voters continue to bear the burden of ineptitude as a result of negligence,” said Brad Ashwell, Florida state director of the voting rights group, All Voting is Local.
He called on Lee and Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend the voter registration deadline.
Ashwell said his organization had made “repeated attempts” to work with the state “to fix the faulty website,” including finding an independent vendor to stress-test the system, which he said the state declined.
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“No aspiring voter should be silenced because the state can’t maintain a functioning website,” Ashwell said.
About an hour after the website crashed, Sen. Jason Pizzo, spoke to Lee about the issue over the phone. The Miami Beach Democrat said Lee instructed her agency to continue monitoring the website for potential disruptions, and that she was exploring whether she has the authority to extend the deadline for those who continue to experience issues with the website.
Pizzo later called the League of Women Voters to ask that they consider seeking judicial remedy to extend the voter-registration deadline. He emphasized the move should be done in a non-partisan fashion, and that the extension should be for a reasonable amount of time that takes into account the amount of time the website was unavailable to those who were seeking to register to vote on Monday.
“I’m still hoping Lee can determine she has the authority to do it on her own,” Pizzo said.
If she does not have the authority, Pizzo said, judicial relief would be the next step, and that it is his understanding Lee would be amenable to it.
Gov. Ron DeSantis' spokesman, Fred Piccolo, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the administration was looking at extending the deadline on its own accord.
Christian Ziegler, vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida, said the Democratic Party “likes to make it seem like there’s some conspiracy out there” but that websites often go down. He added that there are plenty of other avenues for people to register to vote, like visiting a local election supervisor’s office.
“They are just playing politics,” he said.
Tampa Bay Times elections coverage
Voter guide is coming soon: The Tampa Bay Times will publish a special election section Sunday, Oct. 18 with information on local races. You can also access our Know Your Candidates guide at tampabay.com/voterguide beginning Sunday, Oct. 11.
FELONY CONVICTION? Here are Florida’s rules for registering to vote.
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HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT VOTING IN FLORIDA? WE HAVE THE ANSWERS: We’ve compiled information on voter registration deadlines, rules for voting by mail and more.
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