TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A lawsuit filed by a group of voting rights organization is demanding Florida to extend the state's voter registration deadline by two extra days.
The lawsuit, initially filed against Governor Ron DeSantis, who a judge later ruled was not a proper party in the case, and Secretary of State Laurel Lee, went before a federal judge in Tallahassee this week. A judge on Friday denied the motion for a preliminary injunction.
The plaintiffs of the lawsuit -- New Florida Majority, Dream Defenders and Florida Immigrant Coalition -- argue the current extension, expired at 7 p.m. on October 6, did not give Floridians enough time to register online.
"Everyone should have access to the ballot and individuals who are eligible voters who did everything that they were supposed to and were unable to because of the state’s negligence and default should not be penalized," said Jorge Luis Vasquez, the director of the power and democracy program with Advancement Project national office, and involved in the suit.
The lawsuit comes just a day after Floridians reported seeing delays and errors in the state's online voter registration page. Lee said on Tuesday the site saw unprecedented volume and traffic, noting no evidence of interference or malicious activity impacting the site had been found.
Below is a copy of the court document:
Following the lawsuit announcement, Gov. DeSantis' spokesperson Fred Piccolo released the following statement to ABC Action News via email:
"There is no basis in law or equity that would supersede the Secretary's power to re-open at her discretion and subsequently set a corresponding new time to close the books. After 7 pm tonight, the amount of time to register under Florida law will have been available to all residents of the state. Joe Biden called today victory for Democracy. Seems odd to file a lawsuit to overturn such a victory."
Below is a tweet referenced by Piccolo:
Florida — today's decision to extend the voter registration deadline is a win for our democracy. If you haven't registered to vote yet, head to https://t.co/uAcduFQlKF before 7 PM ET tonight to do so.
This election is too important to sit out.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 6, 2020
Florida's Department of State told ABC Action News' Haley Bull it was reviewing the lawsuit and considering the next steps after its filing. Moments after the Department of State released their email response, Lee released the following statement:
"The Florida Department of State has been in touch with state and federal law enforcement partners since yesterday to discuss the issues that affected Florida's Online Voter Registration system on Monday, October 5, 2020. At this time, we have not identified any evidence of interference or malicious activity impacting the site. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide any additional information as it develops."
Thursday the case went before a federal judge.
"What we’re asking for is let’s give enough notice. Let us help you to ensure people know when how and where they can go to vote. And the secretary of state should also take steps to make sure communities are involved," said Vasquez.
"Our view is that wasn’t enough of an extension and the evidence and voters we’ve spoken to and declarations we’ve filed in the lawsuit confirm that that wasn’t enough time. There were voters at work when the announcement was made. The period of the extension corresponded largely to the workday," said Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel with Demos, representing plaintiffs.
According to court documents filed by the state, it says approximately 50,000 Floridians submitted material using the online voter registration website during the extension.
In the documents, the state argues it "extended the deadline in a way commensurate with the time of the difficulty, and it did everything in its power to ensure that Floridians were put on notice of the extension." It also cites election officials voicing concerns a further extension would confuse voters and divert resources.
"The consistent theme that threads together all of the State’s arguments in this filing is this: Florida, like the rest of the Nation, must play its oversized role in selecting the next President of the United States. Judicially overhauling a critical Florida election deadline might sabotage, perhaps irreparably, Florida’s efforts to maintain normalcy during this profoundly abnormal election cycle," the state's response states.
"This is a non-partisan issue everyone has a right to register to vote and we need to ensure that our neighbors, our fellow Floridians, who want to vote who try to vote on Monday are able to vote," said Vasquez.
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