Politics & Government

Manatee supervisor of elections questions length of extension

Since Hurricane Matthew forced over 1 million Florida residents to evacuate, potential voters will now have the opportunity to register to vote until Oct. 18 after a decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker Wednesday.

Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett said other states like Georgia and South Carolina had it worse than Florida.

“I understand (the decision) somewhat,” Bennett said. “I didn’t think they needed to go to the 18th.”

Voter registration in Florida was supposed to end on Oct. 11.

The Florida Democratic Party had asked for an extension of the registration, but Gov. Rick Scott’s attorneys argued there was no state law allowing that.

Democrats sued Scott on Oct. 9, Walker granted an emergency order extending the deadline to at least Wednesday for a hearing and then made his decision.

Bennett said Florida’s evacuated residents made up a “relatively small number” in comparison to those evacuated from other affected states. According to the Washington Post, over 2.5 million people along the coast from Florida to South Carolina were evacuated because of the hurricane.

He said he thought everyone who wanted to register to vote would have done so already.

When asked why Bennett thought Florida’s deadline was extended and not all the affected states, Bennett referred to the Sunshine State’s contentious voting battleground. Bush v. Gore, for example, was a decision in the 2000 presidential election where certain ballots were rejected and subsequently led to Bush’s 537-vote lead over Gore.

By allowing this, Bennett thought that if the election in Florida was close, as it typically is, no one could blame it on the hurricane.

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse