Florida voter registration site back, Democrats skeptical

Posted at 4:56 AM, Sep 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-23 11:20:01-04

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A Florida voter registration website was back up and running Sunday, hours after Democrats accused the state's Republican governor of voter suppression for taking it down for maintenance.

The Florida Online Voter Registration site was offline over the weekend, angering Florida Democrats who accused Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration of orchestrating the maintenance days before a national voter-registration mobilization effort.

Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day, which encourages local organizations and businesses to conduct voter registration drives. Last year, more than 800,000 people registered to vote on National Voter Registration Day, according to its website .

Early Sunday, the Florida voter registration site was offline.

"The Division of Elections is conducting routine maintenance. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience," the site said. Floridians who wanted to register could download an application form or contact their county supervisor of elections, it said.

"Governor Ron DeSantis knows that the Florida Democratic Party strategy of registering and turning out voters will result in victory in 2020," said Terrie Rizzo, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party. "Shuttering the online voter registration site for 'maintenance' as we kick off our largest voter registration week is the latest act of voter suppression from a governor who has doubled down on voter suppression tactics during his short tenure."

A spokeswoman for the agency that oversees Florida's elections said in an email that any suggestion that the site was taken down for anything other than maintenance is false. The maintenance began Friday night, and advanced notice was posted on the site, said Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State.

"The routine maintenance helps increase security for the site and will also help to ensure the site is able to handle the anticipated increase in traffic on National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday," Revell said in an email.

Voter-suppression claims also have been made against Republicans in Florida over a constitutional amendment voters approved last year that would make it easier for convicted felons to regain the right to vote.

Republican lawmakers, in drafting legislation to implement the amendment, said its language about felons having to complete "all terms of their sentence including parole or probation" also meant paying all court fees, fines and restitution before being eligible to vote. Opponents have described the requirement as a "poll tax," meant to keep felons from registering to vote.