Federal Judge Extends Voter Registration Through October 18, Deals Blow to Rick Scott

Empathy isn't exactly a major part of Rick Scott's brand. Before taking the governorship, Scott had the distinct honor of running the company that stole the most money from Medicare — the government agency that gives health care to poor people — in history. Things haven't progressed much since he took office.

Thankfully, Florida has an entire judicial system to keep Scott in check. And today a federal judge shot a torpedo into one of Scott's more unconscionable actions as governor: refusing to let people register to vote after a Category 4 hurricane destroyed parts of Florida last week.

Normally, Florida's voter registration deadline would have ended this past Tuesday. But after the Florida Democratic Party sued Scott, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Monday extended the date by one day. Today, Walker officially pushed the deadline back to October 18, giving Floridians affected by Hurricane Matthew six additional days to register.

"We are thrilled the court agreed to extend the voter registration deadline a full week following Hurricane Matthew," Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said in a statement. "While we wish it had not taken a lawsuit to get the Scott administration to do the right thing, today's ruling is a major victory for all Floridians and for the democratic process in the Sunshine State."

As Matthew tore up Florida's east coast, many residents — most of them Democrats — urged Scott to extend the registration deadline. Scott wouldn't exactly have been breaking with his party on this: South Carolina's Republican Gov. Nikki Haley did exactly that last week. Yet Scott, who just so happens to chair Donald Trump's political action committee, steadfastly claimed voters had "had a lot of time" to sign up already.

Scott's official response neglected to mention one key fact: According to Politico, 488,000 new Democrats have signed up to vote in Florida this year, compared to only 60,000 Republicans. Virtually every election analyst says Trump needs to win Florida to win the presidency — and another week of registration all but guarantees that more Democrats will end up casting ballots next month.

So the Florida Democratic Party sued Scott this past Sunday, and Scott lost in fairly spectacular fashion.

The Associated Press reported today that Judge Walker said state emergency provisions didn't give Scott the ability to waive the deadline. But Scott can extend or cancel an actual election in the case of an emergency, Walker said, implying there were flaws in the state law.

Scott offered no defense today, and a spokesperson told the AP the state would accept Walker's ruling.

The entire ordeal is a perfect microcosm of Florida's issues with Scott: It's not just that he's pro-business, anti-environment, and often anti-people; it's also how brazen he is about it all. Scott refused to even entertain the idea that some people might have been barred from registering to vote this year because of the storm. In fact, he basically scolded people for not registering when they had the chance.

He also didn't seem to care that he also runs Trump's super PAC and that it really looked like he was using a natural disaster to score political points. Scott is just going to do what Scott does, humanity be damned.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.