Florida Governor Ron DeSantis extended the registration deadline for voters Tuesday after unexpected and unexplained heavy traffic crashed the state’s online system and potentially prevented thousands of participants from voting in next month’s presidential election to enroll.
DeSantis extended the deadline, which expired on Monday, to Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. EDT. In addition to online registration, DeSantis ordered that the offices for elections, motor vehicles and tax collectors remain open until 7 p.m. local time for anyone who wants to register in person.
“You can have the best website in the world, but sometimes there are hiccups,” DeSantis said during a press conference at The Villages, a large age community in central Florida. “If 500,000 people get off at the same time, there is a bottleneck.”
The state is investigating why its voter registration system crashed on Monday, saying that unexpected high traffic during closing hours cannot be explained immediately.
Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who oversees the voting system, said the online registration system was “accessed by an unprecedented 1.1 million requests per hour” in the final hours of Monday.
“We are reviewing all options to ensure that all eligible registrants have the opportunity to register to vote, and will work with our state and federal law enforcement partners to ensure that this is not a deliberate act against the voting process,” Lee said in one Explanation . “We will publish an update as soon as possible.”
Lee tweeted on Monday that due to the high volume, some users were experiencing about 15 minutes of delays when trying to register, but that they had increased capacity.
A civil rights group threatens to sue if the governor does not extend the deadline. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said the collapse would unjustifiably strip thousands of ballots for president and other offices.
“We’re not going to stand idly by,” said Kristen Clarke, the group’s president. She said the group sued Virginia in 2016 after its computer system crashed shortly before the deadline and won an extension that allowed thousands of additional voters to register.
Democrats across the state have been pushing for the deadline to be extended.
“Not planning for an increase in voter registration is suppressing voters. Failing to ensure that anyone who wants to register can do so is suppressing voters. Failure to extend the deadline is suppressing voters. @GovRonDeSantis & @FLSecofState, you need to extend the deadline, “tweeted Nikki Fried, Florida’s commissioner for Agriculture and Consumer Services and the highest-ranking Democrat in the state.
“This is just the latest attempt by the Florida Republican leaders to curtail democracy. The Florida voter registration website, which failed on the last day to register for the Florida vote, is an obvious voter suppression. Correct the website, stop the repression and let democracy work, “Florida Democratic Party leader Terrie Rizzo said in a statement.
“The total incompetence of Governor Ron DeSantis to crash the state’s voter registration website on the very last day in order to register for the upcoming November elections is sadly completely believable,” said US MP Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “His administrative idiot running the state unemployment system telegraphed the ineptitude of today’s executive branch. However, this particular flaw points to an ongoing pattern of voter repression for which the governor is notorious. “
Sarah Dinkins, a Florida State University student, tried to help her younger sister sign up Monday night. They tried around 9 p.m. and by 10:30 p.m. they were unsuccessful.
“I’m very frustrated,” she said. “If the voting website doesn’t work, fewer potentially democratic voters can vote.”
This is not the first major computer shutdown that has affected the state government this year. For weeks in the spring, tens of thousands of Floridians who had lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic were unable to apply for unemployment benefits due to repeated crashes of this overloaded computer system, delaying their payments. DeSantis replaced the director who oversaw the system, but blamed his predecessor, Republican compatriot Rick Scott, who is now a U.S. Senator, for the problems.
NBC 6’s Julia Bagg has more on what officials are saying after some people claim they were denied registration because of the issues.