Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sample online ballots in Florida spur clash on privacy

Sample online ballots in Florida spur clash on privacy

Voting, like everything else, is discovering the digital age.

No, online voting is not coming to Florida. The state that gave us six-hour waits at the polls obviously isn't ready for that.

What the state Legislature wants is for voters to give their email addresses to county elections offices so they can get sample ballots online, rather than by mail, and study their choices electronically.

If enough voters opt in, counties could save a lot on printing and postage costs.

Elections supervisors like the idea. But they want the law changed so that voters' email addresses would remain confidential.

That has brought protests from the First Amendment Foundation, an open government group backed by many of Florida's newspapers. The League of Women Voters isn't sure voters' email addresses should be a secret, either.

But elections officials and legislators say that if voters' email addresses were public, they would be hounded by political parties wanting money and candidates seeking support, not to mention retailers and others. They say that would discourage voters from giving out their email addresses.

Legislation to keep the information private — SB 1260 and HB 249 — is moving ahead with unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats.

The sponsors are Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Margate Democrat, and Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, who said it would be wrong to make a voter's email address public information.

"It was just meant to get higher participation," Nelson said. "It's to give people more comfort that they won't be solicited."

First Amendment Foundation president Barbara Petersen says the secrecy is not needed. In a letter of opposition, she noted that a finding of legislative necessity, required for all public records exemptions, says secrecy would prevent voter fraud, "yet there is no factual evidence to support this assertion."

"Furthermore," Petersen went on, "there are no signs that voters are shying away from the polls because their email addresses are subject to disclosure."

Deirdre Macnab of the League of Women Voters said email addresses could be lost and voters wouldn't get their sample ballots. She also said people change their email addresses a lot.

"We support ways to cut costs and reduce the use of paper, but this idea should be approached with caution to see if the amount of work justifies the end product," Macnab said.

County elections supervisors are not secretive people. But they are in the customer service business and their customers are voters.

Citrus County's Susan Gill says people, fearful of identity theft, complain when they learn that their date of birth is public information (as are voters' party affiliations and how often they vote).

"Sometimes," Gill said, "the Sunshine Law can give us a sunburn."

Contact Steve Bousquet at

Sample online ballots in Florida spur clash on privacy

Sample online ballots in Florida spur clash on privacy 03/18/13 [Last modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 6:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Loggerhead sea turtle found in Islamorada resident's pool


    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on Monday, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys.

    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on June 22, 2017, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys. [Photo from video]

  2. What Wilson Ramos will mean to the Rays lineup, pitching

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer was stumping for all-star votes for Corey Dickerson during a live interview Wednesday morning on the MLB Network when he lifted the right earpiece on his headset and said, "I hear a buffalo coming."

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos (40) waves to the crowd after being presented with the Silver Slugger Award before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
  3. Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players


    Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

  4. She doesn't care if you accept her, as long as you respect her

    Human Interest

    Mary Jane Taylor finds strength walking quietly among the dead.

    Mary Jane Taylor,18, visits Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa when she is feeling low. "When I hit my low points in life I go the the graveyard," she says. "people are afraid of the graveyard. I love the graveyard." The transgender teen recently graduated from Jefferson High School. She is  enrolled in summer classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville studying international business. She plans to transfer to the University of Florida, attend law school and become a civil rights lawyer. (JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times)
  5. Few new details in state investigation of Tarpon Springs officer-involved shooting of Nick Provenza

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — An investigative report, released this week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, into the officer-involved shooting that killed 25-year-old Nick Provenza included largely the same narrative prosecutors released this month that ruled the shooting a "justifiable homicide."

    Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.