In Florida, a Big Win for Democracy

By Mark Ferrulo

In Florida, hurricanes and extreme weather events are a part of life and we know how to make adjustments, but some things are beyond our control. The damage and distress caused by Hurricane Matthew was one of those instances. Tens of thousands of Floridians had to pick up and leave their homes in order to avoid the hurricane. With folks still struggling to return home and check in on loved ones, the deadline to register to vote was the last thing on people’s mind.

Thankfully, this week, Judge Mark Walker, of the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida extended and protected the rights of Floridians to register to vote in the upcoming election. The court recognized the impact that Hurricane Matthew had on Florida residents and now will allow them more time to register to vote – until Tuesday, October 18th. 

"No right is more precious than having a voice in our democracy," wrote Judge Walker in his ruling. We couldn’t agree more. This common sense, but vital court ruling is a reason to celebrate. It’s also a stark reminder of the critical role that our federal courts play in our day-to-day lives.

This ruling is a win not only for voters in Florida, but for democracy. For far too long hard-working Floridians would have had to choose between preparing their homes and families for a hurricane and registering to vote. The court made the right call and sided with our constitution, democracy, and with the working families of Florida who want a voice in their government.

In the coming days, our allies across the state are excited to get to work and use this opportunity to continue to register voters in Florida. These civically-engaged organizations will be working hand in hand with the local Supervisors of Elections to ensure that as many people as possible can participate in the election process. We want to ensure Floridians get registered, make it onto the rolls, turn out to vote and have their votes counted.

As we all know too well, Hurricane Mathew is not the first nor will it be the last natural disaster to hit Florida. After this election is over we're hopeful the legislature will implement remedies for voter registration to make it easier for Floridians to exercise their constitutional right to vote even if there is a natural disaster. 

Over the past week Floridians have proven once again that we are a resilient bunch, adapting to any natural disaster that comes at us. Now it is time to adapt and modernize our voter registration system to include same day registration and online voter registration so future natural disasters don’t require the courts to step in and do what our own governor would not do – ensure every eligible Floridian has a voice in our Democracy.