Online-voting legislation was supported by all of Florida’s 67 elections supervisors, and by near-unanimous majorities in the state House and Senate.
So you might think the bill — allowing citizens to register to vote and change their voter information at a secure Internet site — would be a shoo-in to be signed by the governor and become law.
But this is Florida, and the issue is voting, and the governor is Rick Scott. So it wasn’t easy.
Florida has a long history of voting snafus, most notably the hanging-chad controversy of the 2000 presidential election. Changes to the voting system seldom go smoothly.
Scott, in his first term, launched a campaign against voter fraud, though there was no proof that a serious problem existed. The effort was still underway this past February, when the governor dropped an appeal of a federal court ruling that one of his voter-roll purges was illegal.
Also, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees the Division of Elections and is a Scott appointee, adamantly opposed online registration — citing cyber-security threats and the potential that a shift from written to computerized forms would overwhelm state elections officials.
So it was a pleasant surprise Friday when Scott signed the bill — “with some hesitation,” he said — making Florida the 25th state to adopt online voter registration.
Some hesitation is warranted. Internet hackers have repeatedly broke into the online information of department store chains, credit card companies, and government agencies.
But no such attacks have been reported in the states that have online registration, and some have had the system in place for nearly a decade.
To prevent tampering, the legislation requires a “unique identifier” for each voter. Registration information submitted online would be cross-checked with records at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
In any case, the legislation gives the Division of Elections more than two years to implement online registration — it won’t be available until October 2017 — and provides $1.8 million to pay for it. That’s more time and money than most of the other states needed.
Also, the law requires state technology officials to conduct a “risk assessment” before the system goes live.
The benefits of online registration clearly outweigh the risks.
Voter registration would be encouraged by offering citizens the convenience of signing up online rather than having to submit a form by mail or in person.
National and local elections officials say online registration improves voter participation — especially by younger, more technically savvy residents — and reduces errors and outdated information in records.
The benefits offered, and the precautions taken, led to overwhelming, bipartisan support in the Legislature. The House passed the bill by a vote of 109-9, and the Senate approved it 37-3.
That level of support may have persuaded Scott to sign the bill, rather than risk the first veto override of his administration — especially with a special session on the budget coming up June 1.
But we’d like to think that — in a state that’s been accused of making voting difficult and discouraging participation — Scott simply “did the right thing for Florida voters,” as Deirdre Macnab, president of League of Women Voters of Florida, put it.
There was little enough that the House and Senate agreed upon this pass legislative session. We’re thankful that a rare show of cooperation, on an issue as important as voting, didn’t go to waste.
Original article here.