On Thursday, October 6, Florida Governor Rick Scott stated that the state has no intention of extending the voter registration deadlines because of Hurricane Matthew. Today, Michael Slater, president of Project Vote, issued the following statement in response:
Over 1.5 million Floridians—and roughly another million people across Georgia and South Carolina—have been told to evacuate their homes in advance of Hurricane Matthew’s approach. Project Vote joins the rest of the world in hoping that everyone in these states weathers the storm safely.
But a natural disaster in October should not mean that Americans lose their right to vote in November. Hurricane Matthew arrives during the last week in which citizens have an opportunity to register to vote and participate in the election. Election officials often experience a huge surge in registration just before the deadlines. According to University of Florida professor Daniel A. Smith—as reported in the Miami Herald—about 50,000 people registered during the final five days of registration in 2012.
Last night, Governor Scott said that Florida has no intention of extending the voter registration deadline, as “everybody has had a lot of time to register.” This seems to blatantly ignore the fact that all Floridians had reasonable expectations that they would have more time to register to vote, and that no one could have anticipated this eventuality. Now, Governor Scott is suggesting that the people in his state who have not already registered somehow don’t deserve to do so, and that endangered Americans who may lose their homes should also lose their fundamental right to vote.
In recent years, the governments of these states have not always shown a great deal of concern over making it easy for their citizens to vote. But denying eligible Americans the opportunity to have their voices heard, just because they had the bad luck to be in a hurricane’s path and had to take care of their families, would seem the height of callous indifference.
South Carolina has already slightly extended their deadlines, but we encourage the state to extend them further, and we call on the other affected states to follow suit. It would be a simple way to show compassion for those in the storm’s path, and a reassuring demonstration that these election officials actually care about hearing the voices of their constituencies.
Project Vote is a national nonpartisan, non-profit organization dedicated to building an electorate that accurately represents the diversity of America’s citizenry. Project Vote takes a leadership role in nationwide voting rights and election administration issues, working through research, litigation, and advocacy to ensure that every eligible citizen can register, vote, and cast a ballot that counts.
For more information and interviews, please contact Michael McDunnah at 202-905-1397.