Democratic lawmakers ask Gov. Scott to reconsider extending voter-registration deadline

Florida Gov. Rick Scott holds a press conference on Friday at the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott holds a press conference on Friday at the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. TNS

Eleven Democratic members of Congress from Florida asked Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Friday to reconsider pushing back the state's voter-registration deadline because of Hurricane Matthew.

In the letter, spearheaded by Weston Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the lawmakers thanked Scott for his handling of the powerful storm — and then urged him to change his mind on the deadline.

“We respectfully request an extension of the voter registration deadline so that we may ensure the franchise, the integrity of our democracy, and the rights we as Americans hold dear, are fully protected,” they wrote.

In Tallahassee, Scott dismissed the question: “I’m focused on the storm and every life.”

Scott said Thursday he planned to keep the Tuesday deadline, after Hillary Clinton's campaign urged for an extension. The storm canceled plans from Democratic-leaning groups to sign people up at the last minute; there's typically a surge of interest right before the deadline.

An attorney for a firm that does work for the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party suggested on Twitter late Thursday that the campaign could sue Florida if Scott doesn’t budge. Scott chairs a pro-Trump super PAC.

White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters who asked about the dispute Friday that “generally speaking, the president thinks we should be making it easier for people to vote, not harder.”

“Any steps that impede on citizens’ ability to exercise that right to vote is a step in the wrong direction,” Schultz said.

Several liberal-leaning organizations, including Project Vote and People For The American Way, also released statements Friday imploring Scott to delay the deadline.

Among the lawmakers who signed the congressional letter were U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whom Scott is considering challenging in 2018. The others who signed — several of whom are on the Nov. 8 ballot themselves — were U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, Kathy Castor of Tampa, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Alan Grayson of Orlando, Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.

U.S. Rep. Robert Brady of Pennsylvania, the ranking Democrat on the Committee on House Administration, also wrote Scott, making the same deadline-extension request. So did the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

“If the Republican Governor of South Carolina can use her emergency powers to extend the deadline to register to vote because of interruptions caused by Hurricane Matthew, there is no reason that Gov. Rick Scott should not do so as well,” Florida ACLU executive director Howard Simon said in a statement. “This is a simple, non-partisan request for the Governor to use his authority to ensure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to participate in this important election.”

Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.