Civil rights organizations go back to court to extend vote-by-mail deadline

Voters casting ballots. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

With the coronavirus pandemic dissuading some voters from going to the polls, a coalition of civil rights organizations is pushing for an extended deadline for those unable to vote in Tuesday’s presidential primary.

“Tuesday’s election was fraught with confusion, misinformation, and fear,” according to a joint statement from the coalition.

“The evidence so far is that election day turnout will be low, and thousands of voters were disenfranchised despite record numbers of voters who voted early and by mail.”

After a federal judge in Gainesville denied requests from the group’s federal lawsuit filed on March 16, plaintiffs filed a new petition to extend the vote-by-mail deadline to March 24.

Though the requests were rejected Tuesday, Judge Robert Hinkle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, recognized the seriousness of the coronavirus threat to voters, the coalition’s press release said.

Hinkle noted that he was open to the possibility of “appropriate post-election measures,” according to the coalition.

“Hundreds of polling locations across the state were closed or consolidated due to poll-workers not showing up or resigning,” the coalition said. “Despite the difficulties experienced at polling places, the state’s supervisors of elections were making no exceptions to the rules for obtaining emergency vote-by-mail ballots that voters can complete at home and return by the close of polling.”

The organizations allege in court that Gov. Ron DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel Lee refused to make reasonable accommodations for Floridians affected by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.