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Online Voter Registration Bill Goes Before Florida House

The Florida House is expected to take up a voter registration bill, which has the blessing of Florida’s 67 County Supervisors of Elections.

Online registration is already in 20 states, with another four getting ready to implement it. Under the bill,HB 7143, the state Division of Elections would be required to develop a secure website that could be used to register first-time voters and update existing voter registrations. A companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Democrat Jeff Clemens from Lake Worth.

“It works, and not only is it more secure, but it saves us money, and I think that’s a big thing when we’re talking about having to spend money on voting machines and trying to make our process better,” said Clemens.

If online registration passes, Clemens says it’s very possible that we’ll see online voting in our lifetimes.

“But there are some security concerns and things we’ve got to iron out,” Clemens said. “It’s going to be a few years before we get to that.”

Escambia County’s David Stafford, a past president of the Florida Association of County Elections Supervisors, says online voter registration is one of their top priorities in this legislative session. Currently, one wishing to register can complete an online application, which is transmitted to the supervisor of elections. But the applicant must then print out the document, sign it, and mail it to the elections office.

“The concept is that if an individual is already in the driver's license office database, then they would access the online voter registration tool,” Stafford said. “Which would then link up to their driver’s license information. Then they would complete that process and it could done fully online.”

Upon confirmation, the data and digital signatures would be sent to the local supervisors offices. Stafford says part of the system’s already in place at the state’s driver license offices.

And Florida wouldn’t have to go it alone. ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center, is a non-profit that helps states improve voter roll accuracy, and increase access to registration. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have joined since its creation in 2012 by the non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts.

More states are projected to join ERIC this year and beyond. And that’s the Association’s other priority – to add Florida to that number, so it can share voter statistics with the other member states.

“It goes through and uses different sources of information to identify potentially duplicate voters,” said Stafford. “Someone who may be registered in more than one state. And perhaps equally importantly, identifies potential deceased voters.”

If online voter registration makes it out of the Legislature, it may die on Gov. Rick Scott’s desk. Scott and Sec. of State Ken Detzner oppose the idea, citing concerns over security and implementation.