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Florida extends voter registration deadline after website problems

Florida residents now have until 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday to register to vote online or in-person.
Image: Polling center Miami
Voters cast ballots in the presidential election at a polling center in Miami, Fla., on Nov. 8, 2016.Rhona Wise / AFP - Getty Images file

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis briefly extended the state's Tuesday voter registration deadline hours after its website crashed in the final hours of availability.

Florida residents now have until 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday to register online or in-person, Secretary of State Laurel Lee said in an email.

Voters who tried to visit the Florida Department of State website on Monday night were greeted with a message from Cloudflare, a cybersecurity company that specializes in mitigating attacks from hackers who try to knock sites offline with a massive influx of traffic. The voter registration site received 1.1 million visitors an hour, Lee said.

But Cloudflare’s CEO, Matthew Prince, said that increased traffic to election sites Monday night didn’t appear to be an attack.

“Traffic up, but that’s to be expected as people are legitimately registering to vote,” Prince said in a text message Monday evening. “As of now, no indications of malicious traffic to any of the voter registration sites we help protect.”

The problems lasted for “about seven hours,” DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday.

Seven organizations filed a lawsuit Tuesday to extend the new deadline.

Andrea Mercado, executive director of New Florida Majority, a progressive group that took part in the lawsuit, said 7 p.m. was not enough time to let people know they can still register.

Mercado said there is always a spike in registrations as states get closer to election day. In the past week, New Florida Majority registered 800 people online and another 840 people in person.

“It’s too bad that our Florida leadership doesn’t do better,” Mercado said in a phone call. “It’s denying democracy to so many people.”

Florida is one of at least three states whose voter registration sites have gone offline in recent weeks, though the only one that did so on the eve of a voter registration deadline.

Pennsylvania’s Department of State website went down for more than 24 hours over the weekend, which the department blamed on a third-party outage.

The Illinois Board of Elections’ registration website went down for several hours on Sept. 22, National Voter Registration Day, after social media ads for voter registration brought enormous traffic to their site, Matt Dietrich, spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said.

“When Facebook and Google started their push, we were seeing up to 1.8 million hits per hour,” Dietrich said in an email. “It was still functioning very slowly for some users but the vast majority of users were getting error messages throughout the day.”

The registration websites of Illinois and Pennsylvania have both resumed operating. Their registration deadlines are Oct. 18 for Illinois and Oct. 19 for Pennsylvania.