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House votes to keep voters' email addresses secret

The email addresses of voters will be secret under a bill the House passed and sent to the Senate Thursday.

Amid overwhelming bipartisan support, the House vote was 114-1, and came over the opposition of the First Amendment Foundation, an open-government watchdog group backed by many of Florida's newspapers.

But lawmakers said they are more concerned about protecting voters, who already are flooded with mail and phone calls during campaigns, from also being inundated by candidates and political committees using their email addresses.

The House bill (HB 249) is sponsored by Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka. A related bill allows county election supervisors to give voters an option: They could get sample ballots on their personal computers rather than through the mail, and their email addresses will remain confidential.

"The whole intent is to get more people to sign up for sample ballots over the Internet," Nelson said. "If you sign up for a sample ballot, that ought to be kept confidential."

Democrats agreed. "I think we should limit public records exemptions, but at the same time I think people shouldn't be inundated with spam emails," said Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek.

-- Steve Bousquet