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Online Voter Rolls Don't Register With Scott


Governor Rick Scott hates the idea of online voter registration. The Senate wants it done yesterday.

That left Scott’s elections chief Ken Detzner standing awkwardly Thursday in front the Senate transportation and economic development committee.

Republican Chairman Jack Latvala of Clearwater wasn’t smiling.  

“Planning to do that? You’re in the process of planning to do that? You know, this sounds like some slow walking.”

Latvala isn’t the only one who thinks Florida’s 12 million voters deserve the convenience of electronic voter registration.

“The League is pushing for that, as is the supervisors of elections association,”

That’s Dierdre Macnabb, head of the Florida League of Women Voters. The appeal of electronic voter registration is undeniable, McNabb says.

“There are a number of states that have done it. I believe there are like 30 states now,  that have electronic voter registration.

Actually, it’s 20 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most pay between $250,000 and $750,000 for their systems. Florida may have to spend $1.8 million, Detzner says.

But it’s not the cost that worries him. The Division of Elections and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles are in the middle of a massive database overhaul. It’s supposed to be done in 2017, the Senate deadline for online registration, Detzner told the committee.

“There’s a flashing yellow light with regards to the planning and implementation, which is why I’m taking this position today.”

Detzner reminded the committee about a 2012 fiasco, when Scott demanded purging non-residents from the voting rolls. Detzner found 180,000. The real number was 198. Only 85 voters were removed.

Nothing’s easy when it comes to election records, Detzner said.

“This is just not like an application on an i-Phone. You don’t just touch a button and have online registration.”

But registering online isn’t complicated. Applicants fill out a form on a government website. Election officials verify it with driver license records.

In Arizona, the cost of registering a voter fell from 83 cents to 3 cents. Florida already has an online voting track record. Okaloosa Elections Supervisor Paul Lux participated in a 2002 electronic voter registration experiment called “SERVE.” It didn’t go well.

“The serve project got cancelled because the white hat hackers that they hired wrote a report that said the system wasn’t secure.”

The online voter registration bill passed the committee overwhelmingly and has just one more committee to go.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.