1. Opinion

Ruth: Why Rick Scott fights online voter registration

Published Apr. 24, 2015

Here's the troubling thing about elections. When you offer the body politic the chance to cast a ballot, there is always the inherent risk people will also avail themselves of the opportunity to actually take the trouble to vote. And let's face it, you can take this democracy drivel only so far.

So it is understandable that when momentum started to build during this year's session of the Florida Legislature to allow the serfs to register online to vote, Gov. Rick Scott reacted as if Tallahassee was pondering changing the state seal to a hammer and sickle.

Since the Gort of the Governor's Mansion took office, Scott has made repeated assaults on the electoral process. The Scott junta endeavored to disenfranchise voters by signing into a law a reduction in early voting from 14 days to eight days until the Legislature eventually restored some of the time. And there was the 2012 ham-handed effort to purge the voting rolls based on Scott's delusional crusade to clamp down on ballot box fraud, even though voter fraud repeatedly has been proven to be virtually nonexistent.

Just how many electoral voter fiends out of the nearly 12 million registered voters in Florida was the Barney Fife of the ballot box eventually able to scrub from the rolls?


And it was Scott who reversed former Gov. Charlie Crist's laudable decision to automatically restore the voting rights of many convicted felons upon the completion of their sentences. During the Crist administration, 153,928 convicted felons had their voting rights restored. Under Scott, fewer than 300.

Scott is not a governor particularly enamored of the vagaries of elections. After all, one might lose. Why make it easier for folks to decide how they want to be governed?

So the governor has been working behind the scenes to block the online voter registration bill, which has bipartisan support in the Florida Legislature and from the League of Women Voters. The proposal is also unanimously backed by the 67 county supervisors of elections. And, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 24 states — from California to South Carolina to New York to Utah — have implemented online voter registration without any indication Che Guevara has been elected to office.

Yet Scott's hand-picked Renfield, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, has been doing the governor's bidding in opposing online registration. Doing his best, "lions and tigers and bears, oh my" hand-wringing, Detzner has muttered doom and gloom warnings that the implementation of online voter registration would be "very high-risk" and a "distraction."

Detzner also warned that making it easier for citizens to register online to vote might attract the "forces of evil" to disrupt elections. Scott already has caused more than enough mischief over the process of casting a ballot.

During a testy Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in which Detzner looked like he would have preferred to be on vacation in Yemen, Sen. Don Gaetz asked the secretary of state if his opposition to online registration was at the behest of Scott. "I have never been told what my position is," Detzner replied.

He said that without once getting his marionette strings tangled up. Great snickering ensued.

It is noteworthy that one outlier in opposition to the bipartisan support for online voter registration is Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Quill Pen, who also happens to be chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Despite the support and expertise of all 67 Florida supervisors of elections, Ingoglia still had "security concerns" over implementing an online voter registration protocols that 24 other states have managed to embrace.

We interrupt this column to introduce some cynicism.

One might suspect the "security concern" that so haunts Ingoglia and Detzner is the potential risk to Scott's political future as the governor eyes a potential 2018 campaign for the U.S. Senate. Let the forehead slapping begin.

There are roughly 500,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Florida, a margin that could widen were it made more convenient to register to vote. For Scott and his enablers of voter suppression, why take the chance of making it easier to participate in democracy?

That would be a ballot too far.