State embraces online voter signup, but fraud concerns linger
At the dawn of what promises to be a busy and potentially volatile election year in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott's administration reports good progress in implementing a new system of online voter registration by 2017. The report raises familiar concerns that electronic voter registration could increase the possibility of fraud or identity theft and says the state will require "adequate and enhanced security protocols."
The Legislature last spring passed a bill allowing OVR by October of 2017, appropriated $1.8 million for the first stage, and ordered the Division of Elections to produce a progress report by Jan. 1. The 16-page report, sent to House and Senate leaders on New Year's Eve, promises "timely and successful implementation" of the system by working in conjunction with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and all 67 county election supervisors.
A person who registerss to vote submits a Florida driver's license of state ID card for verification, and the highway safety agency database verifies the person's identity. But the report iincludes this warning: "A challenge uncovered during the course of discovery for the OVR system is that algorithms for generating a driver license number or state identification card number are readily available on the Internet. That information in conjunction with other publicly available information, such as name and date of birth, could facilitate online fraud."
As a result, the report says, Florida's OVR system "will need to elicit from the online applicant additional unique data that would presumably only be known to and be in the possession of the new applicant," such as the last four digits of a Social Security number and the date their license or ID was issued by the state.
The report notes that 28 other states have passed OVR laws and that New York and California both active systems. Election supervisors pushed for the new system and it had overwhelming bipartisan support in the Capitol. But Scott's Secretary of State, Ken Detzner, resisted it during the 2015 session, and this analysis of the legislation, by Detzner's staff, triggered an uproar among supervisors and legislators. Scott signed the bill into law last May "with some hesitation."
Detzner is one of several agency chiefs under Scott who were not confirmed by the Senate in 2015. They all must be confirmed in the 2016 session or risk losing their jobs.