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Friday, May 15, 2015

"Some hesitation": Gov. Rick Scott signs online voter registration bill, but does so with a frown

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 2:54 PM

click to enlarge rick-scott-thinker1.jpg
image via Sunshine State News
Pardon our surprise here, but it appears that everyone's favorite thinking dome of governance has, hesitantly, made the effort to act in some kind of decent manor, especially when it comes to voting rights (gasp!). Scott, who has hot-tipped himself for bigger office in 2018, when no one votes (and has been veritably laughed off the docket of 2016 presidential hopefuls because he can't form a sentence or run a state), today signed SB 228, which will allow people to register to vote online. He did so with "some hesitation," he says in a statement, reprinted below. His concerns indicate the general concerns of just about everyone with a state government system that has been pared down to bots and outsourcing: Just take a gander back at the mess the state endured with automation of its unemployment system into early 2014. Scott is alleging that the deadlines on the new voter-registration system could face similar fates, but wants to make it clear that he totally believes in full suffrage, so long as there is no fraud (from the left) or "cyberattack" types. GOONIES! COOTIES! (Uh, more than 20 other states have online voter registration, so calm down). 

The News Service of Florida is reporting that the system is relatively cheap to implement: up to $300,000 at the start, with $1.8 million already set aside in the state budget (which has yet to be signed or figured out or anything) to maintain it. 

So far, the response has been giddy in that Friday kind of way.

"Deirdre Macnab, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida, applauded Governor Scott's action today, saying 'He did the right thing for Florida voters.' Following the the recommendation of all 67 Supervisors of Election and an overwhelming bi partisan support in the Legislature, today the Governor approved the bill, signing it into Florida law, and keeping the state in line with 21st century technology," a statement from the League of Women Voters of Florida said.

“I am proud of the bill the Florida Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law today that makes voter registration more accessible to Floridians and moves the state from the equivalent of the typewriter age into the iPad age. Anytime we increase voter access it is a positive step toward greater civic engagement. The Legislature works best with bipartisanship effort. I would like to thank Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Rep. Matt Caldwell, Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, Sen. Jeff Clemens and Sen. Garrett Richter for their efforts to modernize our state’s election laws. Together, the entire Legislature was able to get this done and I’m proud to have been a prime co-sponsor in the House. It’s important to let voters know we made sure to include provisions to make sure cybersecurity is maintained and the integrity of our system is preserved. This legislation means Florida joins 27 other states with provisions for online voter registration and it gives citizens more opportunity to participate in the electoral process. It makes democracy better and it moves Florida forward,” longwinded State Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, piled on in a similar statement. 

Hooray Democracy! Boo, a failed legislature. Anyway, here's Scott's hesitant email in full:

May 15, 2015

Secretary Kenneth W. Detzner

Department of State

R.A. Gray Building, Room 316

500 South Bronough Street

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0250

Dear Secretary Detzner:

By the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Florida, and under the provisions of Article III, Section 8, of the Florida Constitution, I do hereby approve of and transmit Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 228, enacted during the 117th Session of the Legislature of Florida, during the Regular Session of 2015 and entitled:

An act relating to Online Voter Registration…

It is with some hesitation that I have signed Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 228 into law.

Serious concerns were expressed during the course of the legislative session regarding the implementation of an online voter registration system. I am thankful that the House of Representatives amended the legislation on the floor to add further safeguards, and while I support this legislation, there remain some concerns regarding its implementation.

My initial concern relates to the timing of required deliverables. The legislation does not implement an online voter registration system until 2017, but does require the Secretary of State to begin providing deliverables prior to 2017. These requirements coincide with Department of State’s (“Department”) ongoing efforts to modernize the Florida Voter Registration System. This system has been experiencing maintenance issues, which election supervisors have rightly cited as a challenge to their duties. As a result, the Department has expedited work to replace equipment and programming.

The legislation also requires the Department to submit a report to the Legislature at the beginning of 2016, which should highlight how preparing for online voter registration has coincided with the changes to equipment and programming for the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election.

Another concern relates to cyber security because added technology results in added challenges and vulnerabilities. Cyber-attacks are on the front pages almost every day, and fraud and identification theft issues arise whenever a new avenue for information transmittal is created. While these challenges exist, I am confident that the Department and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will act carefully and prudently in developing needed protection for citizen information.

Despite these real world concerns, I agree that we must do everything possible to encourage 100 percent participation in elections, with zero percent fraud. That is why the Department will develop an implementation plan and work with the Legislature and election supervisors to ensure this law is implemented successfully.

Thanks to the Legislature’s election reforms in 2013, we were able to both expand access and execute one of Florida’s most well-run elections in 2014. It is in that spirit of collaboration that we look forward to continuing to make improvements that build on our success.

For the reasons stated above, I hereby sign into law Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 228.


Rick Scott


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