Hurricane Matthew Hits Campaign Trail With Voter Registration Deadline Fight
(CNN) — As the deadly Hurricane Matthew cuts a devastating path up the US coastline on Friday, the seeds of a political feud over the storm are already growing.
Major natural disasters the month before an election always have political consequences, and with the crucial battleground state of Florida being among the first hit by the storm, campaigning has been interrupted in a state both sides see as a path to the presidency.
On Thursday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said his state wouldn’t extend voter registration deadlines, after a Hillary Clinton spokesman said they should consider it. The Republican governor said “people have had time to register.”
The deadline to register in Florida is Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters Thursday that the campaign’s “hope would be that a little bit more time will be given for people who were expecting to be able to get registered before the election.”
South Carolina, which is also in the path of the storm, originally had its voter registration deadline Saturday. But the state election commission on Thursday extended that deadline to Tuesday, given Post offices and government buildings being closed for the storm and for Monday’s Columbus Day holiday.
Swing state North Carolina is also in the path of the storm and is a hotly contested state in November. But its voter registration deadline in that state isn’t until next Friday.
Democrats have been outpacing Republicans in early voting measures in both Florida and North Carolina.
After Scott’s decision, Democrats and election experts piled on the governor, saying it was a poor decision.
“Gov. Scott is awful. Is disenfranchising voters really the GOP’s only strategy to try to win? Sadly it seems so,” wrote Democratic campaign lawyer Marc Elias on Twitter.
“A sign of dying party is the belief that less people exercising the right to vote is key to victory,” wrote Dan Pfeiffer, a former adviser to President Barack Obama.
University of Florida Research Foundation political science professor Daniel A. Smith also criticized Scott’s decision, saying it would have a public safety benefit.
“Seriously, @FLGovScott? “Everybody has had plenty of time to register.”?? In 2012, 50k citizens reg’d in last 5 days before Oct 8 deadline,” Smith tweeted. He added: “Had @FLGovScott extended voter registration deadline, Floridians could focus solely on lives/family/property and do VR in coming weeks.
“Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, along with Deputy FEMA Administrator Joe Nimmich, briefed Clinton and Trump on Hurricane Matthew’s expected impact and the federal response over the phone, DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in a statement.