Florida’s GOP governor was expected to decide how to assist voters in the heavily Republican Panhandle area harmed by Hurricane Michael, as voting rights advocates combat efforts to suppress the Black vote.
Gov. Rick Scott is mulling his options to possibly extend the voter registration deadline to help the approximately 135,000 customers without power in a region of the state where eight of the 11 counties are Republican strongholds, Politico reported.
Recovery efforts continue in the wake of the powerful Category 4 storm that killed at least 29 people. With homes destroyed, widespread power outages and phone lines down, voter participation is extremely difficult for many.
But state law grants Scott emergency powers to ease the burden of voting under difficult circumstances. That means the heavily white, Republican population has someone looking out for their voting rights.
Florida Democrats have been discussing strategies to offset the possibility of the governor delivering a political advantage to his party, such as placing super-voting precincts in heavily populated Republican districts damaged by the storm.
Meanwhile, voting rights advocates have had to use the courts to protect voters in storm-damaged areas. After Hurricane Florence struck in September, voting rights groups, including the ACLU and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, joined a suit in South Carolina to extend the deadline for voter registration. The devastation caused by Florence affected areas in North and South Carolina that are heavily populated by African-Americans.
On Oct. 10, the Lawyers’ Committee, the ACLU of Florida, the ACLU and the Advancement Project sued the state on behalf of three voting rights organizations — New Florida Majority, Common Cause, and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund — to secure a statewide extension of the voter registration deadline instead of one that was only in the Republican-leaning areas damaged by the hurricane.
This all comes as Republican leaders across the nation make every effort to suppress the Black vote. For example, Georgia recently attempted to remove more than 53,000 voters—mostly African-American—from the voter rolls.