Allowing Floridians to register to vote online would be one of the state's most positive election reforms in years. Two dozen states already allow electronic voter registration, and now there is more bipartisan support in the Legislature to add Florida to the list. Lawmakers should not miss this opportunity to make it easier for more residents to participate in elections.
The legislation (SB 228) sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, was approved this week by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, and a similar version (HB 1161) is sponsored by Republican Rep. Kathleen Passidomo of Naples. State law now requires residents to mail or drop off a voter registration form at a county elections office. That is cumbersome for potential voters and expensive for supervisors of elections to administer in the digital age.
The legislation calls for the state to create a secure Internet website, and the system would compare Florida driver license or identification numbers submitted with the application to information already held by the state to confirm names and dates of birth. There would be no difference between registering online or in person.
Of course, there is much more Florida could do to encourage more residents to vote, including allowing voters to register on election day and creating open primaries so voters with no party affiliation could participate. More than a quarter of the state's 12 million registered voters are not registered Democrats or Republicans. But online voter registration would be a step in the right direction, and the legislation is supported by the supervisors of elections and the League of Women Voters.
Online registration should be in place for the 2016 presidential election, while the bills would delay it until after the election. There is no reason to wait, but better late than never.