Florida voters trying to access RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov Sunday morning were greeted with this message:
“The Division of Elections is conducting routine maintenance. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience.”
Andrew Gillum, the outspoken former Democratic nominee for governor, was not happy.
"Today starts National Voter Registration Week. So the DeSantis Administration decides it’s time to pull down http://RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov for ‘routine maintenance,’ Gillum tweeted. “Only thing routine is the voter suppression part.”
Today starts National Voter Registration Week. So the DeSantis Administration decides it's time to pull down https://t.co/4fOOFLJm7m for "routine maintenance." Only thing routine is the voter suppression part. pic.twitter.com/VGEvi0THEZ— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) September 22, 2019
The state’s website indeed was not fully functional for several hours Sunday morning. However, prospective voters could still download an English or Spanish PDF of the state’s voter registration form from the site. Voters could also click through from the state site to their county Supervisor of Elections website, where they could register to vote.
Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State, said in a statement that the accusations of voter suppression were baseless.
“RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov will be up and running this afternoon," Revell said. “This maintenance window will help ensure the site is able to handle the anticipated increase in traffic on National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday.”
Revell added in a subsequent email that on Friday, officials posted advance notice of Sunday’s site maintenance on RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov.
By around 2:30 p.m., the site was once again fully functional.
Kevin Cate, a spokesman for Gillum, said the timing of the website’s outage was still conspicuous. Florida Republicans have displayed a “pattern” of shutting the state website down at key moments, the spokesman alleged.
Last October, a tweet by the activist Samuel Sinyangwe went viral alleging Florida’s voter registration site was not working in the closing days of registration. On Sunday, Gillum retweeted Sinyangwe.
We've now heard from several people that Florida's online voter registration site is NOT letting people register to vote. FL registration deadline is TOMORROW to vote in the Midterms. @mrmidi recorded the error here. This is voter suppression. The state must EXTEND the deadline. pic.twitter.com/IHKeml0QPh— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) October 9, 2018
Election Day 2020 is more than a year away. Still, National Voter Registration Week is a big deal for grassroots campaigns like Andrew Gillum’s Forward Florida, Cate said.
“We have all kinds of things planned all over the state, and a lot of them point back to that website,” Cate said.
Editor’s note: This story was originally posted Sunday morning, when the Florida online voter registration site was still down. It was updated Sunday afternoon to reflect that the site was fully back online.