The new deadline to register to vote in the Sunshine state is October 18.
In its complaint, the Florida Democratic Party alleged that the state's refusal to extend the voter registration deadline would have a "decidedly partisan effect", noting that populations that lean Democratic, including minorities and younger voters, register in greater numbers just before the deadline. Wednesday's ruling cited the League's argument that the National Voter Registration Act provides that voter registration cutoff dates may be no more than 30 days before an election.
But U.S District Judge Mark Walker initially extended the deadline to Wednesday in order to hold a hearing on the matter that same day.
With a population of almost 20 million people, Florida is the fourth largest USA state and the largest where the two major parties have similar levels of support, so the outcome here could have a major impact on whether Clinton or Republican Trump would be the next president.
"We are thrilled the court agreed to extend the voter registration deadline a full week following Hurricane Matthew", said FDP Chair Allison Tant. Had Scott ordered an extension, the judge said, it likely would have triggered lawsuits challenging his right to act. "With this extension, more citizens will be able to exercise their most fundamental right in our democracy".
The lawsuit, filed by the Florida Democrats, reportedly pointed to the fact that Scott issued evacuations, which ultimately led to disruptions in voter registration efforts, The Herald reported. "This decision means that many more voters will be able to participate in our democracy", Pérez said. Early voting in Florida begins on 24 October and lasts until 6 November.
"People have had time to register", Scott said. Originally set to close on Tuesday, Oct. 11, and then extended by the judge until Wednesday, the registration books will now close at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18.
Scott's office said it would seek changes to state law after the judge's first order said current statues don't allow Scott to move the deadline even during a state of emergency.
"These citizens deserve the opportunity to vote after the storm impacted their property", Hamilton said. "It came from him, it should have come from him to allow people to have the extension to register". High winds, heavy rain and flooding from Matthew led to downed trees, building damage and power outages around Chatham, a county of about 278,000 people that includes the historic city of Savannah and part of Georgia's roughly 100-mile coastline.