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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

If at first they don't succeed: Election supervisors to renew push to keep voters' personal data secret

14

December

Fresh off a smooth election cycle, Florida's 67 county election supervisors will pursue changes to the election laws in the 2017 legislative session. They pitched their ideas for the first time at a meeting Tuesday of the revamped Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, chaired by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples.

The supervisors' point man on legislative issues is David Stafford, the Escambia County supervisor of elections. He told senators that the state should follow the lead of 19 other states and join ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center, an information-sharing consortium that helps states track down people who are registered to vote in more than one state. (Being registered to vote in more than one state is not a crime, but voting in more than one state would be).

The state has rejected joining ERIC in the past, but Stafford said joining forces with other states is the right course of action. He said ERIC has identified more than a million voters who have changed states in the past four years.

Stafford also renewed a request that proved controversial in the 2016 session: Making voters' personal information, such as home addresses and birth dates, exempt from disclosure under the public records laws. Supervisors say voters are often dismayed to discover their personal voting information on websites, but a bill to change the law did not get very far last session. It again would likely face strong opposition from the First Amendment Foundation, a group backed by newspapers that closely tracks proposed changes in public records laws.

"We again are on the front lines," Stafford testified. "We're the ones that get contacted by the voters, and voters quite frankly do not like the amount of personal data that is available through the voter registration system. ... What we ask is that some form of that information be protected. It may be available only to certain entities but not to the general public."

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill three years ago that would have exempted the email addresses of voters from disclosure.

Stafford also reminded lawmakers to be cautious about loading the 2018 general election ballot with proposed changes to the Constitution, because a Constitution Revision Commission will soon get to work and will have the power to place proposals directly on the 2018 ballot.

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 14, 2016 12:05pm]

    

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