Voting Rights Groups Call on State Officials to Ensure Florida is Ready for Elections

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida officials must act now to ensure the state’s online voter registration system (OVR) is secure, stable and free from technical glitches that have previously deprived Florida voters from registering to vote. With the February 18 voter registration deadline approaching, that’s the urgent message in a letter delivered today to state officials [LINK] from eight voting rights groups, who are calling for greater transparency from the State of Florida’s Division of Elections so every voice is heard.

“After more than two years and six written requests for information, state election officials owe the citizens of Florida answers,” said Brad Ashwell, State Director for All Voting is Local-Florida and The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “Voters deserve a stable, secure voter registration system and that includes an online system that works, including when the volume is high as we expect it to be this election cycle. The system went down in 2018, we can't let that happen in 2020.”

Since September 2017, advocates have made repeated requests urging Florida’s Secretary of State’s office to make public its plan for preventing and resolving problems with the state’s online voter registration system. Those Florida Sunshine Law requests, though formally submitted and paid for, have been largely ignored.  

With Florida’s March 17 Presidential Preference Primary fast approaching and record turnout expected this election year, the groups expressed alarm that the state may be unable to handle an influx of registrants.

"Florida must act quickly to ensure that past mistakes with the state's online voter registration system are not repeated," said Jonathan Diaz, voting rights counsel at Campaign Legal Center (CLC). "Democracy works best when every voice is heard and all eligible voters participate. No voter should be silenced because requests to resolve technical problems have been ignored."

“No voter should be silenced because the state can’t do its job,” said Micah Kubic, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “If problems occur, we urge officials to have a plan in place to extend the voter registration deadline beyond February 18 so all voters can make their voices heard.” 

In the 2018 election, Florida’s online voter registration system broke down at precisely the moment it was needed most – the high-volume days just before the voter registration deadline. Issues arose in July 2018, just before the book closing for the statewide primary election, and on October 8, 2018 – the day before the October 9th general registration deadline as Hurricane Michael approached.

“The public deserves not only a secure functional and accessible registration system, but also the assurance that state leaders are committed to the core principles of our democracy, including transparent communication with the public and support for free, fair, and secure elections,” said Anjenys Gonzales-Eilert, Executive Director for Common Cause Florida. 

The letter submitted Thursday to state officials by voting rights organizations urges state officials not to wait for another problem to arise before they act. 

“The February 18 primary deadline is fast approaching. Officials can and must act now to avoid another debacle,” said Patti Brigham, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “The recent voting fiasco in Iowa’s Democratic presidential primary is a fresh reminder that Florida officials must be proactive in addressing these issues.”  

“This election year, voters are motivated to turn out. They deserve to have confidence in their registration system so they can be assured their voices will be heard,” said Ashwell “Florida’s Secretary of State must take steps now to avoid the problems voters in Florida as well as other states have confronted close to registration deadlines.”

The letter delivered today was signed by: Campaign Legal Center (CLC), The ACLU of Florida, All Voting is Local-Florida, American Oversight, Common Cause Florida, Fair Elections Center, Florida League of Women Voters, The Lawyers’ Committee, Leadership Conference Education Fund and New Florida Majority(?).