Florida investigating voter registration site outage, extends deadline – CNET


Florida’s voter registration website received 1.1 million requests an hour on Monday night, causing an outage.

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This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET’s coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

After a seven-hour outage of Florida’s voter registration website on Monday, voters in the state will have another chance to register, on Tuesday. The original deadline to register to vote in Florida was midnight Monday, but that’s been extended to 7 p.m. on Tuesday because of the outage. 

Florida’s voter registration website went down starting at around 5 p.m. on Monday, and the outage remained an issue past the midnight deadline, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference Tuesday. He said the site is expected to be working for Florida voters on Tuesday. 

“It’s working now, but if 500,000 people descend at the same time, I mean, it creates a bottleneck,” DeSantis said. “It obviously wasn’t smooth because you had so much traffic. Hopefully it’ll be fine.”

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Monday’s outage wasn’t the first time technical difficulties have affected Florida voters. The voter registration website was taken offline in 2019 for maintenance days before National Voter Registration Day. The state’s residents have also complained about Florida’s unemployment website experiencing outages in April. 

Florida is considered a crucial swing state for the 2020 US presidential election, and during the 2016 election it experienced cyberattacks affecting voter registration databases in two counties. 

The state’s election officials are still investigating what caused Monday’s outage and said the site received “an extremely high volume of traffic.”

“During the last few hours, the RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov website was accessed by an unprecedented 1.1 million requests per hour,” Secretary of State Laurel Lee said in a statement.  “We will work with our state and federal law enforcement partners to ensure this was not a deliberate act against the voting process.”

That amount of traffic is nearly five times the voter registration website’s normal amount of traffic all year. About 213,000 Florida residents so far have registered to vote online in 2020, according to Politico

As of Aug. 31, Florida had 14.1 million registered voters in the state, according to public records. About 32% of newly registered voters in the state came from the online portal. That’s compared to 8.5% of voters who registered online in 2019 and 17% of voters in 2018. 

In September, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI warned that cyberattacks on election infrastructure can affect access to voting information but wouldn’t prevent a voter from casting a ballot. 

CISA said there were no signs of a cyberattack causing the outage. 

“Yesterday, Florida’s voter registration site was unavailable for portions of the evening due to a high volume of traffic. At this point, there is no indication of malicious activity causing the outage,” an agency spokesperson said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and support Florida and other states in protecting the 2020 election.”

Cloudflare’s CEO Matthew Prince said on Monday night that there were no indications of a cyberattack against Florida’s voter registration website. 

Political activist groups in Florida are suing the state to extend the deadline beyond the seven hours, for an additional two days. 

The lawsuit argued that Florida’s election officials should have anticipated a spike in traffic on the voter registration deadline date, since it experienced similar outages in 2018 and during the August primary. 

Before the outage, groups like the Florida Immigrant Coalition were registering hundreds of new voters every hour on Monday, the lawsuit said. 

“Florida is aware that there is increased traffic on book closing days, but the State has not taken steps to ensure that the site has the necessary capacity to accommodate the increased demand,” according to the lawsuit.