Why Rick Scott Was Right On Voter Registration

Rick Scott Right To Not Extend Voter Registration

Now more than ever, the old saying — “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done” — applies. Deadlines, as much as we dread them, motivate, excite and focus the mind.

These all are virtuous traits, and those who embrace them should be honored by holding fast. Bending deadlines to accommodate slackers without compelling cause makes chumps — and potential future slackers — of those who gathered themselves for the unpleasant and oftentimes difficult task of prioritizing.

Florida Governor Rick Scott Speaks On State's December Job Numbers

If for no other reason, then, deadlines should be honored whenever and wherever possible. After all, once people get the idea that deadlines are not commandments, but mere suggestions, civilization most likely will grind to a halt.

Last minutes and deadlines are on our minds today even as Hurricane Matthew completes its churn up Florida’s east coast, largely without the worst of the punishing effects officials and obedient evacuees had feared.

Nonetheless, the abundance of caution exercised in the face of potential disaster resulted in a certain amount of displacement and inconvenience. East coast residents packed up and headed for higher ground. Government offices across Florida closed.

Now, while Gov. Rick Scott has been bathed, correctly, in praise for his forceful management of pre-hurricane preparations (which also included a lot of last-minute decision-making by civilians), he is being pummeled by Democrats — led, naturally, by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign — for not ordering postponement of Tuesday’s voter-registration deadline.

“Everybody has had a lot of time to register,” Scott said Thursday night.

Succinct and, absolutely without question, correct. And Floridians have taken abundant advantage of that time. Through August, the state validated nearly 580,000 new voter registrations, a net, after removals (deaths, moving out of state, felony convictions and so on) of nearly 380,000. Plainly, Floridians have been availing themselves of the opportunity to register.


So what explains Democrats fuming? I mean, besides fuming being their resting attitude? It could be that, through August, Republicans enjoyed a slight (42,000) gain among new voters, closing their statewide disadvantage to two points, 38-36. It could be that in 2012 Democratic registration, testing the limits of the last-second muse, surged by 86,000 in the last couple of weeks before the general election book-closing.

And it could be that they see politics being played. The polls remain tight in purplish Florida, and Scott, a Republican, has made no secret of his staunch support for Donald Trump, the GOP nominee.

All of which enables Clinton’s surrogates to lodge their favorite pre-Election Day indictment, that some powerful Republican — in this case Scott — is indulging in old-fashion Jim Crow voter suppression. After all, late-registering voters tend to be minorities, poorer, younger — all groups that, experts report, put less of a priority on getting registered. In other words, experts continue, likely Democrats.

They also note that officials in Georgia and South Carolina already extended their book-closings to accommodate their citizens’ response to Matthew. But there’s a significant difference: Georgia and South Carolina, which are more in the hurricane’s path in the first place, still will be sorting through the results of the storm’s impact when their original deadline passes.

In Florida, Matthew will be gone and — knock wood — mostly forgotten when Tuesday’s deadline arrives. Evacuees ought to have made it home. Elections offices will be open as usual.

Meanwhile, independent voter registration groups — which themselves tend to lean Democratic — will have all weekend to rally. Moreover, elections supervisors will be accepting, as usual, registrations delivered by mail, and many will stay open late Tuesday.

In short, there remains scant reason, despite Matthew, Floridians capable of being motivated by the last minute cannot successfully act on that motivation.

Stipulated: Holding fast to the deadline might have included some political calculation. But just because a decision has political benefits, that doesn’t mean it was necessarily wrong.

Sometimes a decision can be simultaneously political and correct. That, for a governor on a roll, was the case here.

Veteran journalist and center-right blogger Tom Jackson has worked for newspapers in Washington D.C., Sacramento, Calif., and Tampa, Fla., racking up state and national awards for writing, editing and design along the way. Tom also has been published in assorted sports magazines, and his work has been included in several annual “Best Sports Stories” collections. A University of Florida alumnus, St. Louis Cardinals fan and eager-if-haphazard golfer, Tom splits time between Tampa and Cashiers, N.C., with his wife, two children and a couple of yappy dogs.