As category three Hurricane Matthew approached the east coast on Thursday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) issued a dire warning to his state. “Time is running out,” he said, telling 1.5 million people to immediately evacuate. “This storm will kill you.”
Millions of Floridians have already listened to their governor, boarding up their homes and fleeing the state.
But Florida’s voter registration deadline is October 11, just four days (including one federal holiday) away. By evacuating, many Floridians could miss the last possible weekend to register in-person or by mail for the upcoming general election. Those who aren’t registered by the deadline won’t be able to vote next month, as Florida does not have same-day registration.
“Everybody has had plenty of time to register. I don’t intend to make any changes.”
Noting that potential issue, Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook asked Scott on Wednesday to extend the registration deadlines to accommodate those who will be out of state this weekend.
“The one thing that we are hoping and expecting is that officials in Florida will adapt deadlines to account for the storm,” he told reporters Thursday.
“Everybody has had plenty of time to register,” he told reporters. “I don’t intend to make any changes.”
He immediately faced backlash from voting advocates and Democrats. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on MSNBC that she would push Scott to reconsider.
“It’s clearly the responsible and essential thing to do,” she said. “We have people who have been expecting to have a few extra days before that deadline to register to vote.”
When announcing his decision, Scott also claimed on Thursday that residents of his state should have no problem voting. “We have lots of opportunities to vote, early voting and absentee voting, so I don’t intend to make any changes,” he said.
Florida does not currently have an online voter registration system in place. The state senate passed a bill to enact it last year, but it will not take effect until October 2017 because Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) said he would not be able to implement the tool in time for the 2016 election.
At least 33 states currently have or will soon have online voter registration systems. But after the bill passed the state legislature last year, Scott issued a report criticizing the proposal, falsely claiming that it would allow for “malicious cyber-attacks and non-malicious malfunctions.”
This isn’t the first time Scott attempted to suppress votes. After he took office in 2011, Scott immediately targeted early voting in Florida, signing legislation that he claimed would cut back on voter fraud. In reality, the bill created a “dramatic reduction in a form of voting disproportionately used by African-Americans,” according to a court ruling.
The federal government has also taken note of how severely Scott has restricted voting in Florida.
“I am deeply disturbed that during your tenure, your state has repeatedly added barriers to voting and restricted access to the polls,” former Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a July 21 letter to Scott.
While Scott has denied the request in Florida, elections officials in South Carolina have already extended the state’s voter registration deadline.