Voting rights groups ask for more time to register after site crash

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Florida governor
Ron DeSantis. Screen grab from The Florida Channel 2020.

After Florida’s voter registration site crashed during Monday’s deadline to register for the November election, Governor Ron DeSantis gave voters until 7 p.m. Tuesday to register in person or online. But voting rights activists said that’s just not enough time to make up for the state’s failure.

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It wasn’t until noon Tuesday that Gov. DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel Lee announced it would be extending the voter registration deadline.

DeSantis acknowledged the state’s registration site was overwhelmed Monday, sometimes getting nearly a million visitors an hour.

“You can have the best site in the world, and sometimes there are hiccups on it,” DeSantis said. “So this way, even when people get off of work, they are going to have until 7 o’clock where they can be able to go do that.”

But voting rights groups said days are needed to make up for the state’s failure, not just hours. A group of more than 30 organizations sent a letter to Lee and DeSantis early Tuesday asking the deadline be extended until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

Brad Ashwell, state director of All Voting is Local said even that was a compromise as some wanted as many as five more days to register.

“There’s still a lot of questions as far as whether the site is fully functional if it does get another influx of registrants,” Ashwell said. “We think 7 p.m. is not nearly enough. They need to offer at least another day. That’s what we asked for in our letter this morning.”

Ashwell said the decision to give seven hours doesn’t allow enough time for potential voters to be notified they can register, let alone make attempts to do so. DeSantis and Lee, he said, should be ashamed of themselves.

“It is shameful. He should be extending time to make voters whole,” Ashwell said. “Voters shouldn’t be penalized for the state’s mistake.”

According to the Associated Press, several groups have already filed lawsuits to extend the deadline. The groups said anything less than a two-day extension is voter suppression.

Following the failure of Florida’s online-based unemployment system, Ashwell said the Governor’s administration hasn’t been able to handle online interaction. He said groups have warned the State for months and even years that its voter registration system needed work.

“It really raises questions about the State’s ability to maintain websites or really manage any damage control,” Ashwell said. “It really seems to be falling at every turn, at every challenge.”

Registrants currently have until 7 p.m. to apply online or in person at supervisors of elections, driver’s license and tax collectors offices. Applications submitted by mail must be postmarked Oct. 6.

While the call is still for the deadline to be extended until the 7th, Ashwell said the Governor’s slow response could cause that to change.

“That might be reevaluated and folks might start asking for an addition day as we get closer to the deadline,” he said. “They didn’t make the announcement until halfway through the day today and 7 o’clock is quickly approaching.”

 

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