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Voter registration deadline extended in county smacked by Hurricane Matthew

A federal judge in Savannah, Ga., has extended the voter registration period in Chatham County, Ga., through Tuesday after Hurricane Matthew caused county offices to close for six days.

Judge William T. Moore of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, granted the request made by several civil- and voting-rights groups, including the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP.

Georgia’s voter registration deadline was Oct. 11, but Hurricane Matthew caused the county board of elections to close from Oct. 6-12, limiting registration opportunities for county residents.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Secretary of State Brian Kemp refused to extend the registration period in Chatham, arguing that an extension would create administrative burdens because early voting begins today in Georgia.

Moore’s decision acknowledges some “administrative hurdles” for the county, but the judge said “those pale in comparison to the physical, emotional and financial strain Chatham County residents faced” after the storm.

“Extending a small degree of common courtesy by allowing impacted individuals a few extra days to register to vote seems like a rather small consolation on behalf of their government,” Moore wrote.

“We strongly urge Chatham County residents who were unable to register to vote because of Hurricane Matthew to take full advantage of this extension to submit voter registration forms online, in person or have them postmarked by no later than Oct. 18, 2016, to ensure that they are able to vote in the November general election,” said a statement from Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

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