TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The voter registration deadline in Florida has officially been extended following several issues with the state’s online voter registration system.
Secretary of State Laurel Lee released a statement around noon Tuesday to announce the extension. Voters will now have until 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Oct. 6 to register for the November election.
“We are working with local Supervisors of Elections and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to ensure that all eligible registrants have the ability [to] submit a voter registration application by 7 p.m. this evening,” Lee said.
The initial registration deadline for Floridians was midnight on Monday, Oct. 5. But around 6 p.m. Monday, several people trying to register online at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov reported trouble with the website.
Lee initially said the problem lasted only 15 minutes and was caused by a high volume. In a tweet Monday night, Lee said the Department of State had increased capacity to get the website working again.
However, several users still reported on-and-off problems with the online registration site for several more hours, even after Lee said the fix was made.
Lee said she met with Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday morning to brief him on the situation with the website and the “challenges we encountered.”
“During the last few hours, the RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov website was accessed by an unprecedented 1.1 million requests per hour,” she said. “We will work with our state and federal law enforcement partners to ensure this was not a deliberate act against the voting process.”
Several people, including Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and State Rep. Anna Eskamani, had been calling on Gov. DeSantis to extend the voter deadline. Fried slammed the website issues on Twitter Monday night, saying that not planning for a surge in voter registration is “voter suppression.”
Fried sent a letter to the governor Tuesday morning, officially asking him to extend the deadline by at least 24 hours.
“This is about constitutional freedoms, not about politics – it’s about the fundamental right of everyone who is eligible to register to vote, regardless of political party, to make their voice heard at the ballot box,” Fried wrote. “It is the state’s duty to ensure the website works as anticipated, to allow Floridians to exercise their constitutional rights. With hours taken away from the deadline due to errors, we have witnessed a potential violation of those rights.”
During a news conference on Tuesday, the governor said despite the calls for a 24-hour extension, he believes seven hours is enough.
“I think it was about seven hours – you started to see problems around 5 o’clock, obviously the deadline was midnight so this is a similar thing,” DeSantis said.
Floridians who still want to register can do so online or in person at their county supervisor of elections offices, tax collector’s offices or DHSMV driver’s license offices. Paper applications will also be accepted if they’re postmarked by Oct. 6.
“We really think it’s important that there also be live people that can help, that it’s not just internet or nothing,” DeSantis said. “I mean, you can have the best site in the world, sometimes there’s hiccups on it.”
The governor added that it was a “bottleneck” situation that caused the issues with the online system.
“There were people who would go, couldn’t get through. And then they’d try again and they would get through but it obviously wasn’t smooth because you had so much traffic,” he said.
“If you are NOT registering to vote, we ask that you do your part for your fellow Floridians and please do not try to access RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov during this time and drive up traffic to the site,” Secretary of State Lee added in her statement.
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