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Senate Committee Approves Online Voter Registration

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) - The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee approved legislation Tuesday that would allow Florida voters to register online--but only after the looming 2016 presidential election.

The bill (SB 228) would allow Floridians with driver's licenses or state-issued identification cards to submit applications online, using signatures on file with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, as long as the voter's name and date of birth matched the agency's records. Otherwise, the system would fill out a form that could be printed and taken to the office of the local supervisor of elections.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, said the new system would actually be more secure than the current process for registering to vote, especially when compared to registration drives.

"If you think about it, these applications now go directly from your computer to a supervisor of elections through the DHSMV instead of, again, being handed to a third party that's out doing voter registration, where we don't really actually know what happened to those applications," Clemens said after the meeting.

The panel approved the measure on a bipartisan, 7-2 vote.

Following an amendment by the committee, the legislation would take effect Oct. 1, 2017 --- instead of Jan. 1, 2016, months before a presidential election in which Florida is again expected to be a key swing state.

Clemens brushed off questions about whether the change was politically motivated, noting instead that Secretary of State Ken Detzner is set to update the state's voter rolls, and the DHSMV is also expected to overhaul its technology system.

"The fact that we're able to move the bill out of committee in a pretty positive way, I think, is a good thing," Clemens said. "I take the secretary of state at his word that they have a lot of irons in the fire right now and they've got to make sure we have the correct amount of time in order to be sure we establish a secure system."

"The News Service of Florida contributed to this report."

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