Judge gives Florida voters more time to register after hurricane

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Oct 12 (Reuters) - Residents of Florida were given six extra days to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election by a U.S. judge on Wednesday following the disruption caused by powerful Hurricane Matthew in the state last week.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee extended the registration deadline to Oct. 18, after the Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit seeking more time, court records showed. The original deadline to register had been Tuesday, before Walker ordered a one-day reprieve to allow for a hearing on the matter on Wednesday.

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Florida Democrats had argued that voters were forced to decide between their safety and their right to vote when Republican Governor Rick Scott ordered mandatory evacuations along a stretch of the state's Atlantic coast as Matthew approached.

"No right is more precious than having a voice in our elections," Walker said during a hearing on Wednesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

More on the hurricane

24 PHOTOS
Heartbreaking photos of Haiti recovering from Hurricane Matthew
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Heartbreaking photos of Haiti recovering from Hurricane Matthew

The port city of Les Cayes flooded, suffering badly in the storm.

(Photo via REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

A flooded river in Jérémie. Rising water has prompted fears of a surge in the cholera epidemic.

Source: The Guardian

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Many homes in Jérémie were heavily damaged.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

In Port-au-Prince, a street or a waste yard?

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Some homes are on the verge of collapse. Shelter is a huge concern.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Sifting through the damage. 

(Photo via REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

People carrying their belongings through flooded streets.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Citizens take part in a gathering while Hurricane Matthew passes in Port-au-Prince.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Looking after children is one of the biggest concerns here.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

A girl cries with her relatives at a heavily damaged school.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

An injured man at the hospital after Hurricane Matthew passed Jérémie.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Rescue workers bury the dead.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

An injured woman breast-feeds her baby at a shelter.

Source: The Guardian

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Homes are gone, but life goes on.

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

A relative cries in the funeral of Anne Dit Trozitha Zamore, who died during Hurricane Matthew, in Chantal, Haiti, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A relative cries before the funeral of Anne Dit Trozitha Zamore, who died during Hurricane Matthew, in Chantal, Haiti, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Aerial view of damages in small village of Casanette near Baumond, Haiti on October 8, 2016 after Hurricane Matthew passed the area. The full scale of the devastation in hurricane-hit rural Haiti became clear as the death toll surged over 400, three days after Hurricane Matthew leveled huge swaths of the country's south. / AFP / Nicolas GARCIA (Photo credit should read NICOLAS GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Florida governor Rick Scott (C) visits a damaged beach in St Augustine, Florida, on October 8, 2016, after Hurricane Matthew passed the area. Hurricane Matthew weakened to a Category 1 storm Saturday as it neared the end of a four-day rampage that left a trail of death and destruction across the Caribbean and up the US Atlantic coast. The full scale of the devastation in hurricane-hit rural Haiti became clear as the death toll surged past 400, three days after Hurricane Matthew leveled huge swaths of the country's south. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A man leans on a damaged boardwalk at a debris covered beach in St Augustine, Florida, on October 8, 2016, after Hurricane Matthew passed the area. Hurricane Matthew weakened to a Category 1 storm Saturday as it neared the end of a four-day rampage that left a trail of death and destruction across the Caribbean and up the US Atlantic coast. The full scale of the devastation in hurricane-hit rural Haiti became clear as the death toll surged past 400, three days after Hurricane Matthew leveled huge swaths of the country's south. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A man leans on a leftover of a boardwalk in a debris covered beach in St Augustine, Florida, on October 8, 2016, after Hurricane Matthew passed the area. Hurricane Matthew weakened to a Category 1 storm Saturday as it neared the end of a four-day rampage that left a trail of death and destruction across the Caribbean and up the US Atlantic coast. The full scale of the devastation in hurricane-hit rural Haiti became clear as the death toll surged past 400, three days after Hurricane Matthew leveled huge swaths of the country's south. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives get ready for the funeral of Anne Dit Trozitha Zamore, who died during Hurricane Matthew, in Chantal, Haiti, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A woman tries to get food at a shelter in the school Liliane Mars Dumarsais Estime after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Relatives cry in the funeral of Anne Dit Trozitha Zamore, who died during Hurricane Matthew, in Chantal, Haiti, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
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The governor's office did not immediately comment on the judge's order.

Florida is a key state in the presidential election between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, with polls showing a close race there.

The powerful hurricane, which killed around 1,000 people in Haiti as it churned through the Caribbean, is blamed for at least 30 deaths in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. North Carolina officials have warned of continued flooding this week from swollen rivers.

26 PHOTOS
Aerial photos show North Carolina flooding from Hurricane Matthew
See Gallery
Aerial photos show North Carolina flooding from Hurricane Matthew
A group of people are seen walking through flood waters after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
An aerial view shows a neighborhood that was flooded after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A swift water rescue team is seen making its way through a flooded area after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A tractor trailer is seen in flood waters after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
Fuel tanks are seen after flood waters rose due to Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A boat is seen carrying residents from a flooded area after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A man walks through flood waters after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An aerial view shows a neighborhood that was flooded after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A boat is seen in the flood waters after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
Homes are seen underwater after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
An aerial view of a neighborhood that was flooded after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A home is seen under water after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A national guard vehicle is seen driving through a flooded street after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A car drives through flood waters along interstate 95 after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
An aerial view shows flood waters after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
An aerial view of the flood after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
People are seen walking on an elevated path as flood waters surround them after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
An aerial view of a neighborhood that was flooded after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
An aerial view shows flood waters after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
An aerial view of the flood after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
An aerial view of the flood after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A swift water rescue team is seen making its way through a flooded area after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A swift water rescue team is seen making its way through a flooded area after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
An areal view shows a neighborhood that was flooded after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
An aerial view of a neighborhood that was flooded after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
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In past presidential election years, up to 20 percent of all new registrations in Florida were filed during the week before the deadline, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, which helped bring the lawsuit.



​​​"While we wish it had not taken a lawsuit to get the Scott administration to do the right thing, today's ruling is a major victory for all Floridians and for the democratic process in the Sunshine State," the Florida Democratic Party said in a statement.

South Carolina extended its registration deadline due to Matthew from Oct. 7 to Oct. 11, while Georgia declined to do so. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, whose state's deadline is Friday, said on Tuesday there were no plans to add more time but that it remained a possibility. (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Frances Kerry and Alistair Bell)


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