While political scientists correctly point out that democracy frequently is a messy endeavor, modern democracy’s support structures — such as voter registration databases — should be scrupulously secure and precise.
Instead of that ideal, an audit of the Florida Voter Registration System found that the Division of Elections, under Secretary of State Ken Detzner, had devolved into a sloppy, insecure mess.
Detzner assured the auditing team that elections officials have taken corrective action.
The Elections Division also assures auditors and county elections supervisors that an ongoing “migration” to a new hardware platform will correct some deficiencies in the system, which keeps track of all voters in the state.
Skepticism is in order. The audit’s tone was bureaucratically bland, but the underlying criticism was scathing. It seems unlikely all the problems, uncovered in January and February, could have been thoroughly and verifiably corrected this quickly.
Then there is the matter of the current “hardware upgrade,” two words that justifiably provoke a heart-rate spike. This upgrade is a test of the department’s competence, and we hope it passes.
The independent auditor general’s report, issued this month, pinpointed seven “findings” that, taken as a whole, describe an information-technology culture lax in the extreme.
“Finding 7” hinted at major security problems. It noted that, “Security controls are intended to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data.” Auditors discovered lapses in security controls, but, “We are not disclosing specific details of the issues in this report to avoid the possibility of compromising FVRS data.”
That sounds like a “Yikes!” finding.
Other lapses also were serious. The department failed to adequately document scheduled and unscheduled maintenance on the voter-registration system.
It also failed to provide standard procedures for local supervisors to let the IT department know when things weren’t working properly.
The department gave some employees inappropriate access to allegedly secure data.
Detzner, a Gov. Rick Scott appointee, was in trouble even before the audit details became known. Senators, miffed by his opposition to online registration, refused to reconfirm him in the job he has held since Scott’s first term.
This new report of poor management in one of the state’s most crucial departments should weigh even more heavily against him — unless he can conclusively demonstrate that the problems have been solved.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the most important test an election system can face is imminent — including presidential primaries in this crucial swing state, not to mention a contentious Senate race and scores of elections in new districts.
Florida in 2000 set a new low for messy democracy. It’s up to Detzner to set a new high standard for 2016. And, as the audit shows, he is starting out way behind.
Original article here.