On Sunday, Florida will join 35 other states in offering online voter registration to its residents.
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced Thursday that his department is ready to launch the website in compliance with a 2015 law that required online registration to be available by Oct. 1.
Detzner, who originally opposed the policy, said the Department of State has been working over the last two years, in cooperation with the 67 supervisors of elections across the state, to “implement an online voter registration website that provides Floridians with a secure and more easily accessible way to register to vote.”
“The right to vote is sacred in our country and I hope that with this new and convenient method, more Floridians will register to vote and engage in the electoral process,” Detzner said in a statement.
Residents can register to vote at the website or update their current registrations or they can fill out and print a registration form that must be turned in to a local supervisor of elections. Voters will need a Florida driver's license or state identification card and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers to register online, according to the Department of State.
State elections officials said “multiple safeguards” are being used to verify the registrations and to protect personal information, including the use of a “state-of-the-art” firewall, data encryption, captcha boxes, which are designed to thwart bots, and session time-outs after inactivity.
Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said her organization welcomes the advent of the online registration system but has raised several issues about its implementation.
Goodman said the new system will not follow the law if it requires would-be voters to have either a Florida driver's license or state identification card as well as the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. Under the current paper registration system, Goodman said voters only have to produce a Social Security number if they lack both a driver's license and a state ID card.
She said the online law specifically states that online registration requirements can be no different than the current procedures.
Goodman said Thursday that the issue was raised with Detzner but the League of Women Voters has not received a response from the state agency.
“Let's see what comes out on Oct. 1,” she said. “We remain optimistically hopeful.”
Goodman said a lawsuit would be “our last option,” saying her organization would prefer to work out the issue with Detzner.
Goodman's group also wants clarity on how third-party voter registration groups, like the league, will be able to use the online system. She also said she would like to see the state and local supervisors of elections promote the availability of online registration.
In Polk County, Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards said she will take a cautious approach to using the new system.
“I'm hoping for a bit of a slow start so that we can get accustomed to the processes and procedures,” Edwards said. “And if we do detect any burps or hiccups we can fix them with a smaller quantity.”
She added: “Once it's polished up and perfect, I will promote it. But it's my nature to go slow.”