MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) – A federal judge has denied a motion to extend Florida’s voter registration even though the state online system crashed in the hours before Monday’s deadline and may have prevented thousands of potential voters from taking part in November’s presidential election.
In his sharply worded ruling, US Federal Judge Mark Walker wrote, “this court cannot remedy what the state broke.”
Walker said the potential mayhem another extension might inject into an already tumultuous election cycle outweighed the damage done to prospective voters.
“This is an incredibly close call, but Florida’s interest in preventing chaos in its already precarious — and perennially chaotic — election outweighs the substantial burden imposed on the right to vote,” the judge wrote.
Walker, an acerbic jurist who frequently presides over elections-related lawsuits and has often ruled against the state, launched the 29-page decision with a sarcastic swipe at Florida’s continual elections snafus.
“Notwithstanding the fact that cinemas across the country remain closed, somehow, I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. Just shy of a month from election day, with the earliest mail-in ballots beginning to be counted, Florida has done it again,” he chided.
Walker’s ruling came after several groups sued the state for an extension following the online registration system outage on Monday, the last day Florida residents could register to vote in the November General Election.
Walker said an extension would have burdened the elections departments across the state.
“,,, the consequences of extending the deadline will reverberate across the entire elections process – forcing supervisors to divert resources to answering calls and processing new registrations – thereby hampering other important tasks, such as processing vote-by-mail requests and ballots, and administering early voting.”
Walker also said that in the end, this case is not about Floridians missing registration deadlines.
“This case is also not a challenge to a state statute. This case is about how a state failed its citizens. In this case, potential voters attempted to perform their civic duty, to exercise their fundamental right, only to be thwarted, once again, by a state that seemingly is never prepared for an election.,” he wrote.
Secretary of State Laurel Lee extended the registration deadline until 7 p.m. Tuesday, but a number of groups, including Dream Defenders and New Florida Majority, quickly filed a lawsuit asking Walker to give Floridians more time to register.
The state’s chief information officer blamed the voter registration website crash at the deadline on misconfigured computer servers.
Data filed by the state indicates that 50,000 people registered during the extended time period. Based on previous trends, the judge noted, perhaps more than 20,000 additional people might have also registered to vote, if they had been able to access the system.
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