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Fla. Democrats Want Voter Registration Deadline Extended, File Lawsuit

Early voting has begun for Gainesville city elections, and online voter registration may be coming soon.
Early voting has begun for Gainesville city elections, and online voter registration may be coming soon.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Democrats, rebuffed for the last few days by Gov. Rick Scott, filed a lawsuit in federal court late Sunday asking that a judge extend the state's voter registration deadline at least a week due to Hurricane Matthew.

The Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against both Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state's top election official.

Florida law says that anyone wanting to vote in this year's crucial presidential election must register by Tuesday.

But the lawsuit points out that Scott himself urged Floridians to "evacuate, evacuate, evacuate" ahead of Matthew, which at one time was a powerful Category 4 storm. The storm scraped the state's eastern coast over a two-day period, knocking out power for more than 1 million Floridians, causing flooding and beach erosion. It also is blamed for at least four deaths in the state.

Democrats, including the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, had asked Scott to use his emergency powers to extend the registration deadline. But Scott refused, saying that people had already enough time to register.

The Republican governor also brushed aside questions about whether his actions were related to his support of GOP nominee Donald Trump. Scott is also chairman of a Super PAC that is running ads praising Trump and criticizing Clinton. Clinton and Trump are battling furiously to win Florida, a key battleground state that could determine the presidency. Both candidates have spent substantial time campaigning in the state and the campaigns have spent millions advertising here.

The lawsuit states that Scott was "forcing voters to choose between their safety and the safety of their families, on one hand, and their fundamental right to vote, on the other hand."

The lawsuit adds that because of the storm that government offices were closed, bridges were closed and that registering by mail was not an option because the U.S. Postal Service suspended operations in many of the areas affected by the storm.

Attorneys for the Democrats contend that Scott's actions violate federal law because it unfairly favors some Florida voters over others.

Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Gov. Scott said his office was "reviewing" it.

Florida currently has nearly 12.5 million registered voters.

The Associated Press is a wire service to which WUFT News subscribes.