Detzner: State Is Ready For 2016 Elections

Jan 29, 2016

Credit Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

Florida is ready for the 2016 election, that’s what Secretary of State Ken Detzner told a panel of lawmakers during his confirmation hearing.

There’s no doubt the 2016 elections are at the front of many lawmakers minds. And Sen. Jeremy Ring (D-Margate) says he hopes that’s also true for the state’s elections chief.

“That’s the obvious question, right. We’ve got obviously probably the biggest election turnout ever,” Ring says.

Detzner received confirmation from the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability committee, which Ring chairs. But he’ll still have to go before the larger body to complete the process.  Detzner was one of several Scott appointees who failed to get confirmation last year when lawmakers left the session early. If Detzner and others fail to get confirmation again this year, they’ll be out of a job. But the secretary of state’s confirmation doesn’t appear to be in danger. The process is moving smoothly compared with last year when Detzner came under fire for pushing back against a project to let citizens register online to vote. During a committee meeting last April Detzner told officials that a computer system overhaul along with a major election coming up made adding a push for online voter registration a dangerous prospect.

“There’s a flashing yellow light with regards to planning and implementation and that’s why I’m taking this position today,” Detzner said

But since then, Detzner has changed his tune. Here’s what he had to say about the program during his recent confirmation hearing:

“We are going to be ready for this election, Mr. Chairman. Online voter registration will be ready to meet it’s deadline,” Detzner said

The program is expected to come online in Oct. 2017.

And lawmakers seem to be happy with the progress. The bulk of questions during the Senate Government Oversight Committee’s confirmation focused on election preparation. Sen. John Legg (R-Lutz) also asked about the possibility of returning to an elected rather than appointed Secretary of State.

Detzner says he’s neutral on the idea and thinks the biggest change for an elected secretary of state would be greater political pressure. And he points out it’s a question he’s uniquely qualified to consider.

“As you may know I was the secretary back in 2002 and I was the first appointed secretary. So I helped transition the department between an elected office and an appointed office. So I would tell you my bottom line as an appointee, it really makes a difference who appoints you and what flexibility, what leadership they encourage from you,” Detzner says.

Meanwhile, lawmakers also took up a raft of election related legislation over the week including one bill by Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami) that would raise salaries for elections supervisors. The measure received pushback from lawmakers who thought the state should keep its hands out of county budgets and initially failed, but eventually passed the House Government Operations Subcommittee committee after lawmakers agreed to take it up a second time.  Legislators also discussed a measure that would change the name of absentee ballots to “vote by mail” ballots, a bill to change the forms of identification a veteran can present for voting purposes and a measure aimed at ensuring only U.S. citizens are registered to vote.