Once called too risky, Florida online voter registration finally arrives

New system allows voters to register or update status online<br>
Published Oct. 1, 2017|Updated Oct. 1, 2017

Florida is now the 35th state in the U.S. where people have the option to register to vote or to update their registration online. The system went live Sunday, more than two years after the Legislature passed a bill requiring online registration to take effect by Oct. 1, 2017.

The site, in English and Spanish, is here.

Applicants are required to provide information, such as the date their driver’s license was issued and the last four digits of their Social Security number. The 2018 election for U.S. Senate and governor will be the first in Florida to use online registration.

The new option has been years in the making. County election supervisors lobbied for it for years, saying it will save money, improve accuracy of voter rolls and improve convenience for voters. But Gov. Rick Scott’s administration strongly resisted it, citing “potential risks and challenges” and the possibility of cyber-attacks, more than a year before Russians attempted to hack the state’s voting system in the 2016 election.

Scott’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, raised those concerns in a detailed analysis of the proposal, saying: “Malicious cyber-attacks and non-malicious malfunctions could potentially wreak havoc on an online voter registration system.”

The state Legislature in 2015 provided Detzner $1.8 million to encourage him to support online registration and agreed to delay its implementation until Sunday.

The 2015 law was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth. Twelve lawmakers, all Republicans, voted against it. Scott signed it into law, citing reservations. Read Scott’s concerns.

So who was the first Floridian to register online? The answer: It’s a secret.

The Legislature years ago exempted from public disclosure “information relating to the place” where a person uses to register to vote.

Floridians can still register to vote by mail, at tax collectors and driver license offices and at county elections offices.

As of Aug. 31, according to state data, Florida had 12,845,086 registered voters. Democrats accounted for 37.6 percent of all voters, Republicans 35.4 percent, and voters with no party affiliation or members of minor parties the remaining 27 percent.

The state’s three most populous counties, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, together accounted for nearly 3.5 million voters, or more than a third of the state total.