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Scott's voting chief says 'forces of evil' can derail online registration

Gov. Rick Scott's elections chief got roughed up again Thursday in the Senate as he continues to oppose a bipartisan bill for an online system of voter registration by 2017, which already exists in 20 states.

Appearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said his agency has no plan to implement the change and he's worried about having to work with 67 county supervisors of election, 67 tax collectors and the state highway safety agency.

He raised a flurry of potential problems, including "distractions" from the 2016 presidential election and the "high risk" of computer hacking, cyber-attacks and "the forces of evil" that seek to disrupt Florida elections.

"I would prefer to have a plan in place before I knew that I had an implementation date," Detzner said. "This is too important to get wrong."

None of the 20 states with online voter registration have reported problems. Florida election supervisors say electronic registration will save money and reduce the possibility of human error and voter fraud.

As he did last week in another Senate committee, Detzner did not want to testify, which only riled senators even more. When a young aide to Detzner said the Department of State "waived in opposition," Sen. Don Gaetz quickly insisted that Detzner testify, and things rapidly went downhill from there.

In resisting online registration, Detzner also has picked a fight with one of the Senate's most popular members and the bill's co-sponsor, Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, and one of its most tenacious members, Gaetz.

Citing rumors in the Capitol, Gaetz directly asked Detzner if his opposition was directed by Scott himself. Detzner said no: "I have never been told what my position is."

"This isn't your first rodeo," Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, told Detzner, a long-time friend. Detzner worked in the Department of State decades ago.

The Senate bill (SB 228) passed with four no votes, from Republicans: Sens. Anitere Flores, Rene Garcia, Dorothy Hukill and Joe Negron. The Senate and House have agreed to give Detzner's agency $1.8 million to start planning for online registration, but a minor disagreement over the source of that money prompted the bill (HB 7143) to stall Thursday, temporarily delaying a House floor vote.