Deadline to register to vote is 5 p.m. today

If you're not registered to vote in the Nov. 8 election, your time to do so is running out.

But a federal judge on Monday extended the deadline for Florida residents until at least 5 p.m. today, after a lawsuit was filed by the Florida Democratic Party against Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who is Florida's chief election officer. The deadline originally had been 5 p.m. Tuesday.

In a sharply worded 16-page order, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted a temporary restraining order late Monday, extending the deadline until at least 5 p.m. Wednesday, citing the impact of Hurricane Matthew.

Walker also scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. today to see if a preliminary injunction should be granted, which potentially could extend the voter registration deadline even more.

"It has been suggested that the issue of extending the voter registration deadline is about politics. Poppycock," Walker wrote. "This case is about the right of aspiring eligible voters to register and to have their votes counted. Nothing could be more fundamental to our democracy."

Walker, a Tallahassee-based judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, said that, "if aspiring eligible Florida voters are barred from registering to vote, then those voters are stripped of one of our most precious freedoms. This isn’t golf. There are no mulligans. Once the voter registration deadline passes, there can be no do-over and no redress.”

His ruling also drew parallels between the voter registration deadline and Hurricane Matthew.

"Just five days before that deadline ... Hurricane Matthew bore down and unleashed its wrath on the state of Florida. Life-threatening winds and rain forced many Floridians to evacuate or, at a minimum, hunker down in shelters or their homes," Walker wrote. "Like Hurricane Matthew, the voter registration deadline also approached and bore down on the state of Florida.

"Citing the impending hurricane, many urged the governor of Florida, defendant Rick Scott, to extend the deadline. But defendant Scott demurred, asserting instead that Floridians had other avenues to ensure that their right to vote was protected. Plaintiff brought this case, arguing that defendants' refusal to extend the deadline will unconstitutionally burden the rights of Florida voters."

Walker said in his order that more than 100,000 Floridians were likely to register to vote in the final week before the deadline, but many were hampered by closed government offices and suspended U.S. Postal Service operations.

"Hurricane Matthew not only forced many of those voters to evacuate the state, but also foreclosed the only methods of registering to vote: in person or by mail," Walker wrote. "Because those aspiring eligible voters could not register, they could not vote in the upcoming election. As a result, Florida’s statutory framework completely disenfranchises thousands of voters, and amounts to a severe burden on the right to vote. These voters have already had their lives (and, quite possibly, their homes) turned upside down by Hurricane Matthew. They deserve a break, especially one that is mandated by the United States Constitution. Ensuring that they can exercise their constitutional right to vote thus promotes the public interest."

Here are eight things you need to know, as the election campaign has entered its final month:

Why was Tuesday the original deadline?

It's set by state law, which designates 29 days before the general election — also known as the "book-closing" date — as the deadline to register to vote or change party affiliation prior to general election. With Election Day on Nov. 8 this year, the book-closing date is Oct. 11.

Supervisors of elections in the Tampa Bay area want to make sure voters are informed and ready to vote in the 2016 General Election, which is expected to have a heavy turnout.

The supervisors are encouraging voters to vote before Election Day, if possible. Voters should know that you can only vote in the county you reside in, and that counties in Florida hold early voting for different periods of time depending on what works best in each county.

The deadline to register to vote in this election is Oct. 11. Registered voters may submit name and address changes at any time.

THREE WAYS TO VOTE

1. Vote By Mail. Contact your supervisor of elections office no later than Nov. 2 to request that a ballot be mailed to you, or pick up a mail ballot at an elections office in your county. Mail ballots must be received -- not postmarked -- by your supervisor no later than 7 p.m. Nov. 8.

*  Make sure you have a current signature on file with your supervisor of elections office. You can update your signature by completing a voter registration application. Be consistent when signing your mail ballot return envelope. Signatures are compared to those on file with the elections office.

*  Don't forget to sign your Vote By Mail envelope before returning it.
*  You may mail your ballot back, or contact your supervisor of elections for a list of ballot drop-off locations.
*  If you mail the ballot back, make sure to allow plenty of time for it to be received. We recommend that you allow at least one week for your mailed ballot to reach your elections office. If your ballot isn't in your county's elections office by 7 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 8, it will not be counted.

2. Early Voting: Unlike Election Day, you may vote at any Early Voting site in your county. Dates, times and locations vary by county (see list below). Important: you must vote in the county you live in.

What to Bring to an Early Vote Site

*  Current and valid photo and signature ID. Acceptable forms of identification include:  FL Driver License, FL ID Card (issued by DHSMV), US Passport, Debit or Credit Card, Military ID, Student ID, Retirement Center ID, Neighborhood Association ID, Public Assistance ID, Veteran Health ID (issued by VA), Concealed Weapon License (issued pursuant to s. 790.06), Government Employee ID. If you do not bring ID, you may vote a provisional ballot.

*  Your sample ballot. It's important to look at your sample ballot and make voting decisions before arriving to vote. Pay attention to how many sides and pages your ballot will be, and bring the sample ballot to the voting site for reference.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY EARLY VOTING: Oct. 24 - Nov. 6, 7 a.m.- 7 p.m.
Locations: Bloomingdale Regional Library, Bruton Memorial Library, C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Library, Fred B. Karl County Center, Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library, Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library, New Tampa Regional Library, North Tampa Library, Riverview Branch Library, Gilder Elections Service Center, SouthShore Regional Library, Temple Terrace Library, Town N Country Regional Library, Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library, West Tampa Branch Library, Keystone Community Center.

PINELLAS COUNTY EARLY VOTING: Oct. 24-Nov. 6, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Locations: All three Supervisor of Elections Offices (County Courthouse in Clearwater, Election Service Center in Largo, County Building in St.
Petersburg), Centre of Palm Harbor, Gulfport Community Center

PASCO COUNTY EARLY VOTING: Oct. 29-Nov. 5, 7 a.m.7 p.m.
Locations: East Pasco Government Center, Hudson Library, Land O'Lakes Library, New River Library, Quail Hollow Country Club, Regency Park Library, South Holiday Library, West Pasco Government Center

POLK COUNTY EARLY VOTING: Oct. 24-Nov. 5, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Locations: Polk Street Community Center, Elections Branch Office at Deer Creek Crossings, Haines City Library, Simpson Park Community Center, Polk County Government Center, Elections Branch Office at Orange Grove Shopping Center, Mulberry Civic Center, Gill Jones Center NE Polk County Government Center, Poinciana Community Center

SUMTER COUNTY EARLY VOTING: Oct. 25-Nov. 5, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Locations: Supervisor of Elections Office/Bushnell, Sumter County Government Service Center, Laurel Manor Recreation Center, Allamanda Recreation Center, Rohan Recreation Center, Tierra Del Sol Recreation Center

HERNANDO COUNTY EARLY VOTING: Oct. 24-Nov. 5, 7 a.m.7 p.m.
Locations: East Hernando Branch Library, South Brooksville Community Center, Spring Hill Branch Library, Supervisor of Elections Branch Office/Forest Oaks Government Center

MANATEE COUNTY EARLY VOTING: Oct. 24-Oct. 30, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Oct. 31Nov. 5, 7
a.m.7 p.m.
Locations: Supervisor of Elections Office, Palmetto Library, Rocky Bluff Library, Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, West Manatee Fire and Rescue Administration Building

CITRUS COUNTY EARLY VOTING: Oct. 24-Nov. 5, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Locations: Central Ridge Library, Crystal River Elections Office, Homosassa Public Library, Inverness City Hall

3. Election Day:  November 8, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. Florida law states that on Election Day you may only vote in the precinct assigned to your current residence address. Voters are encouraged to update their address prior to Election Day to avoid delays at their polling place. If you don't know where your polling place is, call your Supervisor of Elections Office or check their website.

What to Bring on Election Day

* Current and valid photo and signature ID. Acceptable forms of identification include:  FL Driver License, FL ID Card (issued by DHSMV), US Passport, Debit or Credit Card, Military ID, Student ID, Retirement Center ID, Neighborhood Association ID, Public Assistance ID, Veteran Health ID (issued by VA), Concealed Weapon License (issued pursuant to s. 790.06), Government Employee ID. If you do not bring ID, you may vote a provisional ballot.

* Your sample ballot. It's important to look at your sample ballot and make voting decisions before arriving to vote. Pay attention to how many sides and pages your ballot will be, and bring the sample ballot to the voting site for reference.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections VoteHillsborough.org (813) 744-5900 Robert L. Gilder Elections Service Center, 2514 N. Falkenburg Rd., Tampa, Florida 33619 Fred B. Karl County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., 16th Floor, Tampa, Florida
33602
Regional Office, 10020 South U.S. Hwy. 301, Riverview, FL 33578 Regional Office, 4575 Gunn Hwy., Tampa, FL 33625
Facebook: HillsboroughSOE  Twitter and Instagram: @HillsboroughSOE

Deborah Clark, Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections VotePinellas.com (727) 464-VOTE (8683) Election Service Center, 13001 Starkey Rd., Starkey Lakes Corporate Center, Largo, FL 33773 County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Room 117, Clearwater, FL 33756 County Building, 501 First Ave. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Facebook: PinellasCountySOE  Twitter and Instagram: @VotePinellas

Brian E. Corley, Pasco County Supervisor of Elections pascovotes.com (352) 521-4302 East Pasco Government Center, 14236 6th St., Suite 200, Dade City, FL  33523 West Pasco Government Center, 8731 Citizens Dr., Suite 110, New Port Richey, FL 34654 Central Pasco Professional Center, 4111 Land O'Lakes Blvd., Suite 105, Land O'Lakes, FL 34639
Facebook: PascoElections   Twitter: @VotePasco

Lori Edwards, Polk County Supervisor of Elections PolkElections.com (863) 534-5888 Headquarters, 250 S. Broadway Ave., Bartow, FL 33830 Operations Center, 70 Florida Citrus Blvd., Winter Haven, FL 33880
Facebook: PolkElections   Twitter: @PolkElections1

Karen S. Krauss, Sumter County Supervisor of Elections SumterElections.org (352) 569-1540 Main office, 900 North Main St., Bushnell, FL 33513 Sumter County Government Service Center, 7375 Powell Rd., Suite 145, Wildwood, FL 34785 The Villages Annex Office, 8033 W C-466, Suite 401, The Villages, FL 32162

Shirley Anderson, Hernando County Supervisor of Elections HernandoVotes.com  (352) 754-4125 20 N. Main St., Room 165, Brooksville, FL 34601 7443 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill, FL 34606 Facebook/YouTube/Twitter: HernandoVotes

Michael S. Bennett, Manatee County Supervisor of Elections VoteManatee.com (941) 741-3823 600 301 Blvd. W. Suite 108, Bradenton, FL 34205 Facebook: Manatee-County-Supervisor-Of-Elections

Susan Gill, Citrus County Supervisor of Elections VoteCitrus.com (352) 341-6740 120 N. Apopka Ave., Inverness, FL 34450 West Citrus County Government Center, 1540 N. Meadowcrest Blvd., Crystal River, FL 34429, (352) 564-7120
Facebook: Citrus County Supervisor of Elections

(© 2016 WTSP)


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