Americans have been casting ballots for the better part of 230 years, and even though the trend has been toward broader eligibility and easier access, the suspicion remains widespread that we still haven’t managed to get it right. This is particularly true in Florida, where — despite having revamped, twice, our entire vote-casting and tabulating process — like a shoeless guest of an unlit hotel room, we keep stubbing our toes. It’s not enough that we continue to endure the stigma of the 2000 presidential election. It’s not often, after all, the leadership of the free world pivots on 537 votes and county elections officials are pressed to decipher the mysteries of dimpled punch-cards. No, more recently and in precincts dominated by voters of color, we have to have hours-long lines and lawyers beseeching courts to keep some voting places open longer than others.
That said, it’s not like there’s not a shoe for the other foot. Opponents of tough voter-identification laws continue to complain about solutions in search of a problem while failing to provide a useful explanation for what was observed by an elections supervisor from Southwest Florida a few years back.
Summoned for jury duty, the supervisor noted with an understandable degree of alarm when a substantial number of the morning’s pool departed upon the announcement that only legal U.S. citizens could serve. This struck the supervisor as important because potential jurors are dipped not from the punch bowl of licensed drivers or local utilities customers or even property taxpayers, but from among the ranks of registered voters.
And as we all know from ninth-grade civics, only legal U.S. citizens can register to vote. We do know that, right? Hello. Testing. Is this thing on? Anyway, it is against that troubled backdrop the Legislature appears prepared to achieve something that boasts not only nearly universal support throughout both chambers, but is unanimously endorsed by Florida’s 67 elections supervisors, and yet still faces an uphill battle: online voter registration.