Florida’s Democratic Party in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday called on election officials to extend by a week the state’s voter registration deadline, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to flee approaching Hurricane Michael.
The party dismissed the state’s move late on Monday to extend the deadline in some spots until Wednesday as inadequate in the face of the looming storm, which was roaring toward the Florida Panhandle with 110 mile per hour (175 kmph) winds.
“Voters will face significant hurdles to registration because of the disruption caused by Hurricane Michael,” the lawsuit said.
The Nov. 6 elections include a close U.S. Senate campaign pitting Republican Governor Rick Scott against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in a contest seen as important to determining control of that chamber, where Republicans hold a two-seat majority.
Voters will also choose a successor to Scott, with Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum seeking to become the state’s first black governor in a race against Republican Ron DeSantis. The state also features several hotly contested battles for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Florida’s secretary of state, Ken Detzner, issued a memorandum authorizing any local elections offices forced to close on Tuesday to accept paper registrations on Wednesday.
The deadline for online registrations remained midnight on Tuesday, Detzner said. The Democrats’ lawsuit is seeking an extension for both online and paper registration, arguing that the storm could cause internet outages and prevent residents from registering online.
Detzner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
U.S. authorities have ordered evacuations in parts of 20 coastal counties areas ahead of the storm’s expected landfall on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Dan Grebler)