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Florida Slightly Extends Voter Registration Deadline After Advocates Demand Action Over Website Failure

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA - JUNE 14: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis looks on prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on June 14, 2020 in Homestead, Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.)

Elections authorities in Florida have nominally extended the state’s voter registration deadline after the antiquated online system for processing requests suffered significant outages during the final hours of that initial time limit on Monday evening.

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee (R) said the system she oversees “was accessed by an unprecedented 1.1 million requests per hour” which caused the website to crash as voters scrambled to register.

Lee directly addressed the crash via Twitter on Monday night:

Users pushed back against Lee’s diagnosis of the problem’s extent–saying that her estimate of “15 minutes” was off-base–saying that they were unable to access the site for upwards of an hour in some cases.

Regardless of individual user experience with the online system, the allegedly unexpected outage potentially prevented thousands of Floridians from registering to vote in November’s general election.

Voting rights advocates and legal experts were appalled by the Sunshine State’s infrastructure failure on the night of that crucial deadline. Many called for officials to extend the registration time period so as to allow would-be voters who were unable to access the website on Monday evening to enroll and participate.

“This is unacceptable,” tweeted Democratic Party attorney Andrew Weinstein. “Extend the deadline [Governor Ron DeSantis].”

Similar calls were repeatedly lobbed at Florida’s newly unpopular Republican governor.

“EXTEND THE DEADLINE @GovRonDeSantis!!!” tweeted Harvard Law Professor emeritus and Democratic Party stalwart Laurence Tribe.

Many commentators expressed something less than shock or disbelief–and, without evidence, attributed the site’s downtime to some form of intentional voter suppression by the Florida GOP. Another equally unsupported assertion, this time leveled by Lee’s office, appeared to cast blame on outside interference.

“We’re exploring all options to ensure that all eligible registrants have the ability to register to vote and will work with our state and federal law-enforcement partners to ensure this was not a deliberate act against the voting process,” she said in a statement. “We will be issuing an update as soon as possible.”

Others noted that Florida and the GOP does, in fact, have a long history of making it harder to vote:

On Tuesday afternoon, DeSantis appeared to have received the message and instructed Lee to extend the deadline by exactly 24 hours–voters will now have until 7 p.m. on Tuesday night to register to vote. DeSantis also ordered all elections, motor vehicle and tax collectors offices to stay open until 7 p.m. in order to accommodate prospective in-person registrants.

[image via Michael Reaves/Getty Images]

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