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DeSantis Extends Voter Registration Deadline; Critics Say It's Not Enough


Gov. Ron DeSantis extended the voter registration deadline until 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 6. Meanwhile, a coalition of voting rights organizations has filed a lawsuit, arguing the extension is not enough time.

The Florida Department of State's online voter registration system has experienced crashes and glitches, which prompted the extension, due to "an unpredented number" of people trying to access the system, according to Secretary of State Laurel Lee.

She said her department is working with state and federal law enforcement to determine whether the tech issues were caused intentionally.

More than a million people visited the site per hour on Monday.

A check of the site on Tuesday at 12:43 p.m. returned an error message reading: "We are unable to prcoess your request."

Paper voter applications are being accepted at local elections offices, tax collectors' offices and driver license offices through 7 p.m. Tuesday, and those mailed with a postmark of Tuesday, Oct. 6, will also be accepted.

“You know, you can have the best site in the world, sometimes there's hiccups on it. And so this way, people, when they get off from work, they're gonna have til 7 o'clock where they could be able to go do that,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday.

Secretary Lee asked that anyone not registering to vote refrain from visiting to prevent further issues.

DeSantis said, “It's working now, but as you know, I mean, if 500,000 people descend at the same time, it creates a bottleneck, and that's what we saw. So there were people who would go, couldn't get through, and then they would try again, and they would get through, but it obviously wasn't smooth because you had so much traffic."

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called the website issues a case of "voter suppression" in a  Tuesday email, adding, "We need to let the governor know that this is unacceptible.  

DeSantis is a Republican. Fried is a Democrat.

Also Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida against DeSantis and Lee to extend the online voter registration.

The lawsuit was brought byAdvancement Project National OfficeDemosLatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer on behalf ofDream DefendersNew Florida Majority, Organize Florida, and Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Related: Read The Lawsuit

Credit WJCT News
This screenshot of the Florida Department of State's online voter registration page was taken at 12:46 p.m. on Tuesday.

The organizations said in a news release that the 7 p.m. extension isn’t enough time to make reasonable voting accommodations for Floridians unable to register due to the site’s outage; and to promote an extension of the voter registration deadline through the news media, social media and government.

The group is calling on the court to order voter registration be extended to midnight on the second day after the date of any order by the court.

“Florida’s OVR system has a history of malfunctioning and crashing in advance of major deadlines like the last day of registration before a major election,” claimed Stephanie Porta, Executive Director of Organize Florida said in an email to WJCT News.

Another voting rights group, All Voting Is Local, also criticized the 7 p.m. registration extension. “Not everybody has the ability to easily hop online or leave work to register to fulfill their constitutional right to vote. We, along with 34 organizations, made it clear that the extension needs to run until October 7 at 11:59 pm and the state must undertake an aggressive educational campaign - in English and Spanish - so no Floridian is disenfranchised,” said All Voting is Local Florida State Director Brad Ashwell.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.
Former WJCT News reporter