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Scott Faces Pressure To Extend Voter Registration Deadline After Hurricane Matthew


The deadline to make changes or register to vote in the November 8th Election is Tuesday and Gov. Rick Scott says he won't extend it--despite mounting pressure for him to do so as recovery from Hurricane Matthew begins.

In the shade of a large oak tree outside Florida State University’s main library, a group of students are trying to sign their peers up to vote and help them update registration forms.

“Are you registered to vote? In Tallahassee? At your current address?" a student calls out as  others pass by. An FSU football player keeps walking with two cameramen following him. Two girls wave a no and keep going and another student says he’ll be back after class.  

"It’s a rough life out here you know," she quips. 

The leader of the group, Turner Lott with the Public Interest Research Group, says it’s going okay.

“We remind them that it’s easier to vote in-person because there’s voting in-person on Election Day, there’s early voting, and there’s a precinct on campus," he says. "And we remind them, look—you’re here four years, you want to be invested in local politics, and local officials have a more direct impact on your life than the ones back home.”

FSU student Yasmine Shammey stops at the table, and picks up a clip board.

"I voted for the governor of Florida. But I haven’t voted for the President yet. It’s my first since turning 18," she says.

Shammey is updating her voter registration to make sure she can cast a ballot in the county where she now lives—Leon.

“I haven’t decided who yet to vote for so it was hard decision to sign up whether to vote because I don’t like both parties. But I decided to register anyway in case the day before I decide who to vote for because it’s important to have that option. And it’s important to vote. It’s just not an easy decision at the moment," she says.

Florida State University Political Scientist Carol Weissert understands.

“The problem it’s been a real nasty campaign. It’s been about individuals rather than policy. So it’s easy to say 'I don’t want to vote for either one'. But if you do that, one of them is going to be president and it’s going to be the one you really don’t want to be president, so you have to get people off that ‘I hate both of them'.”

Republicans and Democrats are scrambling to sign up voters ahead of the Tuesday deadline. But the push also comes as recovery efforts begin for Hurricane Matthew. Republican-led South Carolina election officials extended the registration deadline by a day in response to the storm. The Clinton campaign requested Governor Rick Scott to do the same. But he declined.

“Everybody has had a lot of time to register. On top of that, we’ve got lots of opportunities to vote—early voting, absentee voting and Election Day, so I don’t intend to make any change," Scott said in response to a question on whether he would extend the deadline."

Scott is the chairman of Donald Trump’s political action committee, and the refusal has raised questions about whether Scott is trying to help Trump’s campaign. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush made election changes during the 2004 storm season. Florida is considered a battleground state. It’s a critical state for Republican candidates vying for the Presidency. And University of Florida Political Scientist Dan Smith says these last-minute voters make a difference.

“When you look at those who registered in 2012, over 50,000 people registered in the final five days for the period before the election and about 75 percent of them cast ballots in the 2012 general election."

President Obama won Florida by about 75,000 votes. But Scott is standing firm. And so is the deadline. Floridians have until Tuesday, October 11th to register to vote ahead of Election Day.