Online voting registration is an idea whose time has come. And why not? It’s favored by all 67 election supervisors in the state, most legislators and the League of Women Voters.
Currently, Florida law says those registering to vote must mail or deliver a paper registration form to an elections office, or they can apply when getting a driver’s license at the Division of Motor Vehicles.
After confirming eligibility to vote, the elections office then must manually transfer prospective voters’ information into its computer database — not a very nimble process. If Floridians could register online, the information could more easily and more accurately be transferred.
But the idea is getting a lot of pushback from Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who also is the state’s elections chief. In the past two weeks, Mr. Detzner has testified before two state Senate committees. Each time, he offered up dire consequences for online voter registration.
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Mr. Detzner says fraud could be rampant and he’s worried about having to coordinate with 67 counties while his agency and the state highway safety department, which oversees driver’s licenses, are both upgrading their databases — the backbone of the system used to verify voters’ identities.
Mr. Detzner has even cited “forces of evil” that he said will conspire to disrupt elections.
Some lawmakers have slapped down his concerns. Let’s face it, the “forces of evil” seeking to disrupt state elections have come from inside, not outside, the Scott administration. How about the purge of voter rolls in 2012 and the squirrelly tactics to clamp down on early voting in 2014?
And as for fraud, Mr. Detzner is right to be concerned. However, again, this administration has turned a blind eye to reforming absentee balloting, where fraud is well documented, and has focused on keeping people — especially Democratic-voting people — from easily voting at the polls.
While online registration is not foolproof, neither is today’s process, sometimes abused. Miami-Dade County alone has seen questionably marked absentee ballots, dead people casting votes and other fraudulent behavior.
So far, none of the 20 states with online registration has reported major problems. And election supervisors in both parties say electronic registration will save money and reduce the possibility of human error and fraud.
To address Mr. Detzner’s concerns, lawmakers have offered to adopt online voting registration after the 2016 presidential election, moving the start date to October 2017. Senate Bill 228 only requires Mr. Detzner to show the Legislature his timetables for implementing the system by Jan. 1, 2016.
Why such strong opposition to a practice adopted in other states with little fanfare? Skeptical lawmakers say that all this might have to do with the governor’s political ambitions. Should he run for the U.S. Senate in 2018, online registration could create a flood of new voters — younger, minority — who have not supported him in past elections. If true, Mr. Scott would not be the first elected official looking for political advantage. But he and Mr. Detzner should be thinking first of what’s to their constituents’ — and Florida’s — advantage.
Low turnout, barely reaching 20 percent in recent major elections, is an embarrassing reality. If more people are given the convenience of registering online, more citizens have the ability to vote.
Lawmakers should pass this progressive legislation, and Mr. Detzner needs to get on board.