[Image via screenshot at myfloridaelections]
Florida election supervisors are making news again, on their own terms, by calling on the state Legislature to enact online voter registration during its next regular session beginning in 2015 – though implementation would be delayed until 2017.
That call – timed to coincide with National Voter Registration Day – comes in the form of a position paper released yesterday by the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections (FSASE) [rhymes with “sassy” – at least to me]. In the paper, FSASE says:
It is [our] position … that the 2015 regular legislative session is the appropriate time for Florida to pursue Online Voter Registration (OVR) with an implementation in 2017… This method would complement and augment the current method of registering to vote by allowing elections’ officials to harness technology. More importantly, it would allow eligible electors to register to vote online in a convenient yet secure manner. The current method of registering to vote by accessing an on-line voter registration application through the Division of Elections (DOE) or Supervisor of Elections websites requires the voter to print, sign, date, and mail or deliver the application. An OVR process would eliminate the need to print and mail the application by having the applicant agree to use an existing signature that is already on file through the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) and/or Tax Collector. In the interest of access to voter registration for all voters, the traditional method of registering to vote would still be an option for those who do not have access to a computer.
Given implementation challenges (which the paper also addresses), however, FSASE members prefer to wait until after the 2016 Presidential election to implement OVR fully:
While the FSASE supports the premise or concept of online voter registration, we believe it would be prudent to delay the implementation date until 2017. Given the tremendous spotlight on Florida during Presidential election years, we want the sole focus to be on a successful Presidential Primary, Primary and General Election during 2016. With the passage of this legislation, a coordinated effort between the Florida Department of State, DHSMV and the Supervisors of Elections would be necessary during implementation to ensure congruity of the system.
Notably, the recommendation appears to be completely bipartisan and – as if anticipating objections in the Legislature and political community – rejects the notion that OVR confers any partisan advantage:
In researching the concept of online voter registration, it’s important to note that Florida would be joining twenty states which have already implemented OVR, and the data has clearly shown that registering to vote online is not a partisan issue. There is no pattern of increase or decrease of party affiliation registration when compared to traditional voter registration.
While any legislative action wouldn’t happen until next year, this is a VERY significant development. Not only would OVR benefit Florida voters (and taxpayers via cost savings to election officials), it would also open the door to Florida participating in the ERIC multi-state exchange – which itself is significant given Florida’s size and the fact that mobility to and from the state is high.
Kudos to FSASE and its members for coming together on this effort – and here’s hoping that the Legislature can maintain that spirit when the time comes to put the recommendations into practice next year.