Gov. Rick Scott took a strong stand for public records by vetoing a bill that would have kept secret the email addresses of registered voters. The election system should be as transparent as possible, and there was no compelling reason to create a public records exemption to keep email addresses secret.
County elections supervisors lobbied heavily for HB 249, arguing that public access to the email addresses of voters seeking an absentee ballot could lead to fraud. But the real criminal cases involving fraud concern political operatives who already have access to the confidential names of all voters requesting absentee ballots. The elections supervisors also want to send sample ballots by email and fear voters will be reluctant to provide their email addresses if the addresses remain public. But there is no reason to believe those fears are justified.
Scott properly rejected those arguments Friday, and he was not swayed that the bill passed by 114-1 in the House and 36-1 in the Senate. Mailing addresses for voters have long been public, and as the governor noted, "In the modern age of electronic communications, email is increasingly the most convenient and efficient means to receive information that was previously sent through the mail.''
The presumption in Florida is that government records are public unless there is a compelling reason to keep them confidential. This bill did not meet that test. Scott stood up to the elections supervisors and state lawmakers, and he made the correct decision to veto it.