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Florida Senate OKs online voter registration, sends bill to House

The Florida Senate on Monday overwhelmingly passed a bill that requires the state to create an online voter registration application by 2017. The 34 to 3 vote sends the bill to the House, where passage is also expected, despite strong opposition from Gov. Rick Scott's chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

To underscore bipartisan support for online voter registration, the Senate's Republican leadership left a Democratic senator as the bill's sponsor. The bill (SB 228) is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. Three Republican senators voted against the bill: Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange, Travis Hutson of Elkton and Joe Negron of Stuart.

The bill requires Detzner to send an implementation plan to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2016, and appropriates $1.8 million for the project, which must be fully implemented by Oct. 1, 2017. Detzner has resisted the proposal, citing ongoing modernization efforts by the state voter registration database and a separate system that houses all driver license information.

A total of 21 states now allow people to register to vote or to update their voter registration information online. The latest to implement the change was New Mexico, which has a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature.

Florida has not begun to build an online registration system, even though it already electronically submits completed voter registration forms from state driver license offices to the state Division of Elections in Tallahassee on a daily basis. Those completed forms include digital signatures.