Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Voter Registration Law Signed by Scott

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Voter Registration Law Signed by Scott

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE

In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott drew criticism for backing legislation that opponents said restricted the ability of Floridians to vote, including reducing the time that early voting would be allowed.

After the 2012 presidential election -- when Florida again attracted national attention for voting problems, including long lines in some major counties and the inability to finish a final vote count along with the other states -- Scott backed legislation that pulled back some of those 2011 changes and implemented other reforms.

On Friday, Scott went even further, signing legislation (SB 228) that would let Florida voters register online by 2017 -- making Florida the 25th state that has online registration or is in the process of implementing it.

Scott's latest move -- seen as a major expansion of voting rights -- is drawing praise from some of his harshest past critics.

"He did the right thing for Florida voters," said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, a group that has frequently called Scott out on voting issues.

"For us to be implementing a policy that expands voter access, it's a 180-degree turn from where we were four years ago," said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, the prime sponsor of the legislation.

But Clemens said until Scott announced his decision Friday morning, he was uncertain what would happen to the legislation, which passed with broad bipartisan support in the Senate and House and was backed by Florida's 67 supervisors of election.

"I could have flipped a coin," Clemens said. "I just wasn't sure what was going to happen."

"You would like to think you have answered all the questions that could possibly need answering but in the end I just wasn't sure."

Clemens said he got a call from Secretary of State Ken Detzner's office on Friday morning, but he wasn't able to return it because he was talking to a group of elementary school children.

Detzner -- a Scott appointee who oversees the state Division of Elections -- was the most vocal critic of the legislation, raising questions about cyber security and the ability of his agency to implement the online registration system while the state was conducting the 2016 presidential election -- where Florida will again be one of the most pivotal states, if not the most pivotal. …

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