Florida Democrats filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to extend the state’s deadline for voting registration as Hurricane Michael bore down on Florida’s Panhandle.
The storm, which strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane as it swept through the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to intensify and possibly make landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 monster. Michael will be the strongest hurricane to hit the Panhandle in more than a decade.
Dozens of counties have already declared states of emergency, and the Democrats’ lawsuit seeks an emergency injunction to extend the Oct. 9 deadline, arguing it has become too difficult for some Floridians to meet.
The Department of State’s offices were closed Tuesday due to the coming storm, and in 35 of Florida’s northern and northwestern counties, Mr. Scott also ordered offices closed.
Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott previously extended the registration deadline in those counties where closures have occurred by one day after the day they reopen, but the lawsuit seeks to have that window expanded to one week to Oct. 16.
“Last night, the governor directed the extension of the voter registration deadline for Supervisors of Elections who are forced to close because of Hurricane Michael,” said John Tupps, Mr. Scott’s communications director. “That means that each county will have the same amount of days to register voters. The governor believes that every eligible voter should be able to register to vote.”
Democrats contend that extension is insufficient.
“Although the Secretary has proposed a single-day registration extension in some counties to accommodate a subset of voters affected by Hurricane Michael, his ‘solution’ is insufficient and confusing,” the lawsuit reads. “It does not adequately protect the voting rights of Florida citizens who cannot register to vote by the October 9 deadline.”
Other obstacles could occur for those seeking to register online due to power outages the storm may cause, the lawsuit said.
“Gov. Scott and Secretary [Ken] Detzner have failed to adequately protect the rights of these eligible voters,” said Florida Democratic Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo.
But Michael offered no respite from politics. State media dispatches described Mr. Nelson being denied entry Tuesday to the hurricane preparation command bunker in Tallahassee, a move some chalked up to Mr. Scott’s ability to dictate who is involved. But some state officials said was standard procedure because the headquarters is strictly for members of the state’s emergency response team.
On Monday, Mr. Scott announced he was suspending his campaign to concentrate on his gubernatorial duties, while Mr. Nelson’s campaign continued to send out myriad fundraising appeals.
One showed a clock for doubled contributions that would expire at midnight Tuesday. When the senator spoke with reporters after being denied entry to the storm center, however, he spoke only about storm preparation, according to multiple reports.