In another twist in Florida’s redistricting legal saga, Secretary of State Ken Detzner will ask a federal appeals court to dismiss him from a lawsuit filed by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown that challenges her redrawn district. Detzner’s attorney filed a notice last week that said the secretary of state is appealing a district-court ruling that kept him as a defendant in Brown’s lawsuit, which argues that a new redistricting plan violates the federal Voting Rights Act. The secretary of state, Florida’s chief elections officer, has contended for months that he is legally shielded from being a defendant in the case. A document filed in September, for example, said Detzner, “as a matter of law, is not responsible for congressional redistricting — that is uniquely a legislative function.” But a three-judge panel handling Brown’s case in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee rejected Detzner’s argument that he should be dismissed from the case.
In a stinging blow to opponents of the state’s anti-gerrymandering amendments, a federal court this week has thrown out a lawsuit filed by two Florida Republican Party officials who claimed the new law violated the constitution because it had a “chilling effect” on their free speech and petition rights. Tim Norris, the Walton County Republican Executive Committee Chairman and Randy Maggard, the Pasco County Republican Executive Committee Chairman. sued the Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner in August, demanding that he not enforce the Fair Districts provisions of the state constitution. They made the argument being echoed by many lawmakers that their speech is chilled because, as members of a political party, it will be used to invalidate a map. Hoping to find a venue that was most favorable to them, they filed the case in the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola. But in a 16-page opinion, the chief judge of the district, Judge M. Casey Rodgers, who was appointed by George W. Bush, rejected their argument and dismissed the case.
In a stinging blow to opponents of the state’s anti-gerrymandering amendments, a federal court this week has thrown out a lawsuit filed by two Florida Republican Party officials who claimed the new law violated the constitution because it had a “chilling effect” on their free speech and petition rights. Tim Norris, the Walton County Republican Executive Committee Chairman and Randy Maggard, the Pasco County Republican Executive Committee Chairman. sued the Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner in August, demanding that he not enforce the Fair Districts provisions of the state constitution. They made the argument being echoed by many lawmakers that their speech is chilled because, as members of a political party, it will be used to invalidate a map. Hoping to find a venue that was most favorable to them, they filed the case in the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola.
After the Bush-Gore debacle in 2000, Florida became proactive. Punch cards and hanging chads were replaced with optical scanners.
But that was 15 years ago, and those new optical scanners are now old technology. “It’s an area of concern,” said Highlands County Elections Supervisor Penny Ogg. Her office has kept maintenance agreements. “They get a yearly going over by the vendor,” Ogg said.
Nevertheless, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has placed Highlands in a 30-county mix for voting machine replacements. A 12-county coalition with 14-year-old machines has asked for grants from the Department of State, and they’re asking the state with its greater purchasing power to buy the machines.
A bipartisan group of voters added to the list of redistricting lawsuits this week, filing a case in federal court challenging the Fair Districts amendments of the Florida Constitution as unconstitutional. The group, which includes some Alachua-based Republicans who call themselves the “Conservative Coalition for Free Speech and Association,” is suing Secretary of State Ken Detzner in an attempt to invalidate the anti-gerrymandering amendments approved by voters in 2010. Several members of the Alachua coalition fought the release of their private emails in pending redistricting lawsuits, claiming it violates their First Amendment rights. The court ordered the release of a limited number of those documents, which showed that many of them were political operatives engaged in what the court called a “shadow redistricting” process that aimed to influence the Legislature’s drawing of its maps in a way that favored Republicans.
Following weeks of intense negotiations, the Florida Department of State has agreed to release funds obtained under the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to purchase a new state-of-the art voting tabulation system for a 12-county consortium that includes Franklin County. In an article published in late 2014, Secretary of State Ken Detzner expressed concerns with aging voting equipment being utilized in many Florida counties. His remarks mirrored conclusions found in a non-partisan presidential commission on the voting experience that was released last year. When emerging technology and “mileage” are factored, experts generally estimate the useful shelf life of tabulation hardware and software to be about 10 years. Franklin County is utilizing tabulation equipment that while has proven to be reliable to date, was purchased nearly 15 years ago.
With the 2016 presidential election on the horizon and the ghosts of elections past still haunting it, you would think Florida would have an acute sense for ensuring its voting processes are working as smoothly and efficiently as a Ferrari engine. A recent report, though, indicates the state still is operating like a ’74 Gremlin. The state auditor general, an independent officer hired by the Legislature, recently identified seven weaknesses with Florida’s voter registration system, a computerized database of voter information. … To summarize, the state’s voter database is at risk of failing and/or being compromised. That would make for some potentially chaotic voting scenarios in a high-stakes national election — everything from valid registered voters being denied the opportunity to cast a ballot, to allegations of voter fraud. Hanging chads would seem quaint by comparison.
Two Florida Republican Party officials have filed a federal lawsuit to block the state’s anti-gerrymandering constitutional clauses, arguing the provisions limit First Amendment speech and amount to “thought policing.” The lawsuit, filed Tuesday night in the conservative-leaning Pensacola division of the Northern District of Florida, comes less than a week before the start of a special legislative session to redraw some of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Citing email correspondence from GOP consultants, the Florida Supreme Court ruled last month that at least eight congressional districts were improperly drawn and violated the 2010 voter-approved “Fair Districts” amendments that prohibited lawmakers from intentionally drawing political boundaries to favor or disfavored political parties or incumbents. But Pasco County Republican Party chairman Randy Maggard and his Walton County counterpart, Tim Norris, say the amendments themselves infringe on their right to free speech. They also say the court’s interpretation of the law ultimately violates their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights because members of political parties are unfairly limited in speaking with elected representatives about redistricting in the future.
Under fire once again for lapses in oversight of Florida’s voter database and lax communication, Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official says he’ll “over-communicate” in the future. For embattled Secretary of State Ken Detzner, it’s an all-too-familiar refrain as he tries to improve his strained relationships with county election supervisors, who depend on a reliable database as they tabulate votes in Florida elections. In a conference call with the executive committee of the supervisors association Thursday, Detzner spoke from a prepared script and said the addition of new database hardware is ahead of schedule and that he would soon make site visits to counties. “I recognize the need to over-communicate our planning at the department,” Detzner told them, according to a three-page script of his remarks.
Florida: Auditor general’s report critical of how Florida handles voter information | Tampa Bay Times
A highly critical state audit casts new doubt on whether Florida is ready to count votes in the 2016 presidential election and puts added pressure on Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official to show improvement. The report by the state auditor general, an independent officer hired by the Legislature, criticizes the Department of State for…
As Florida heads toward a historic presidential election cycle with two home state favorites running, those in charge of orchestrating convenient, snafu-free voting statewide have charged that the administration of Gov. Rick Scott too often works against them, rather than with them. The ongoing tension was on display in Orlando Wednesday, as Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s top elections official, addressed a conference of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. Association leaders are still fuming over Detzner earlier this year trying to torpedo online voter registration in Florida, which is offered in at least 20 other states and had overwhelming bipartisan support. His opposition came after he told supervisors he supported the initiative.
Voters in more than half the states will soon be able to register online, rather than filling out a paper form and sending it in. Twenty states have implemented online voter registration so far, almost all in the past few years. Seven other states and the District of Columbia are now in the process of doing so. That includes Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill last Friday requiring the state to allow online voter registration by 2017. Online voter registration has become so popular because election officials say it’s more efficient than a paper-based system, and cheaper. Voters like it because they can register any time of day from home, said David Becker, director of election initiatives for the Pew Charitable Trusts. “What election officials are finding, is they’re saving a ton of money, because they’re having to process a lot fewer pieces of paper by hand, right before an election, and get that into the system,” he said.
Governor Scott has little more than a week to decide on whether to approve a bill that would lead to online-voter registration in Florida. The bill was approved despite opposition from Secretary of State Ken Detzner. It is one of 68 bills that the Senate sent to Scott last week, triggering a May 22 deadline for the governor to sign, veto or allow the bills to become law without his signature, according to a list on the governor’s office website.
Florida: Despite pushback from Rick Scott admin, online voting bill goes to the governor’s desk | SaintPetersBlog
As part of an en masse drop of dozens of bills onto Gov. Rick Scott‘s desk courtesy of the Florida Senate, a bill to allow online voting registration sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Clemens now sits before the Governor’s Office, awaiting his review. Scott administration Secretary of State Ken Detzner openly opposed the measure, SB 228, as it wended its way through committee, saying it would interfere with already ongoing efforts to revamp the state’s voter rolls and registration system.
The Florida House agreed Tuesday to allow online voter registration but tacked on a provision aimed at heightening cyber-security — sending the measure back to the Senate for final approval. Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s top elections official and an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, has opposed the legislation, which sets online registration to begin in 2017. Detzner cautioned that problems could emerge with the measure that has drawn widespread support from lawmakers, county elections supervisors, and voter advocacy groups. The House approved the measure (CS/SB 228) 109-9 Tuesday. But the move came after Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, added a provision that authorizes the Scott administration to conduct a “comprehensive risk assessment” of online registration before the system is made available to the public.
Florida took another step toward becoming the 28th state to approve some form of online voter registration system Tuesday after legislation cleared the House with broad bipartisan support. The bill is strongly supported by local supervisors of elections, including those in Sarasota and Manatee counties. It tasks the state Division of Elections with developing a secure website for processing new voter registrations and updates to existing voter records. The legislation passed the Senate 34-3 on Monday but must go back for another vote after House Republicans added additional security measures to the proposal Tuesday.
The Florida Senate on Monday overwhelmingly passed a bill that requires the state to create an online voter registration application by 2017. The 34 to 3 vote sends the bill to the House, where passage is also expected, despite strong opposition from Gov. Rick Scott’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. To underscore bipartisan support for online voter registration, the Senate’s Republican leadership left a Democratic senator as the bill’s sponsor. The bill (SB 228) is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. Three Republican senators voted no.
Florida: Online voter registration steaming ahead despite top elections official opposing it | KeysNet
Florida should join the parade of 20 states allowing online voter registration, says the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections. “I think it’s a good thing,” Supervisor Joyce Griffin said Tuesday. “It would save paper, save money and save aggravation. It’s the next logical step.” The Florida Legislature seems to agree as House and Senate bills creating an online registration application by October 2017 are moving forward in the waning weeks of the spring session. A Tuesday vote on the House bill was delayed over questions about a $1.8 million cost for the new system. The primary opposition to the bill comes from the administration of Gov. Rick Scott. Scott’s appointed elections chief, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, warned of a “train wreck” and possible computer fraud by “forces of evil” in testimony to a Florida Senate committee April 15.
Despite opposition from the governor’s top elections official, legislation that would allow Floridians to register to vote online was sent to the Senate floor Thursday. Meanwhile, the House delayed a floor vote on a similar measure because of a question about $1.8 million that would be needed to fund creation of the new high-tech application. The Senate Appropriations Committee, in a 10-4 vote, backed a measure (SB 228) that would require the state Division of Elections to develop an online voter-registration application by Oct. 1, 2017, a year later than proposed earlier. “I admit I have some concerns about this bill, and they’re not concerns about the bill itself,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat who is sponsoring the bill. “It’s about whether or not the agency is actually going to do what we tell them to do, or find excuses to not do it again. And that’s concerns me.”
Online voting registration is an idea whose time has come. And why not? It’s favored by all 67 election supervisors in the state, most legislators and the League of Women Voters. Currently, Florida law says those registering to vote must mail or deliver a paper registration form to an elections office, or they can apply when getting a driver’s license at the Division of Motor Vehicles. After confirming eligibility to vote, the elections office then must manually transfer prospective voters’ information into its computer database — not a very nimble process. If Floridians could register online, the information could more easily and more accurately be transferred. But the idea is getting a lot of pushback from Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who also is the state’s elections chief. In the past two weeks, Mr. Detzner has testified before two state Senate committees. Each time, he offered up dire consequences for online voter registration.
Senators approved an online voter registration provision Thursday — even though the state official tasked with implementing the system pleaded with them not to. For 45 minutes, Senate Appropriations Committee members grilled Secretary of State Ken Detzner on why he opposed Sen. Jeff Clemens’ SB 228, which is supported by the state’s supervisors of elections. The bill requires the Division of Elections within Detzner’s agency to implement a statewide voter registration system by Oct. 1, 2017. The system would allow prospective voters to enter their driver’s license of Florida ID number online, which would be checked against Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles records before being sent to a local supervisor of elections.
Florida: House OKs Online Voter Registration Legislation: Top State Election Official Objects | The Ledger
Despite opposition from the governor’s top elections official, legislation that would allow Floridians to register to vote online was sent to the Senate floor Thursday. Meanwhile, the House delayed a floor vote on a similar measure because of a question about $1.8 million that would be needed to fund creation of the new high-tech application. The Senate Appropriations Committee, in a 10-4 vote, backed a measure (SB 228) that would require the state Division of Elections to develop an online voter-registration application by Oct. 1, 2017, a year later than proposed earlier.
Gov. Rick Scott’s elections chief faced open hostility from Senate Republicans for a second time Thursday for opposing a bipartisan bill to allow online voter registration by 2017. Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said that he doesn’t have a plan to implement the change and is worried about having to coordinate with 67 counties while his agency and the state highway safety department upgrade their databases — which are the backbone of the system used to verify voters’ identities. To placate Detzner, lawmakers pushed back the start of the online registration system to October 2017. But he’s still fighting a way to offer a new option to make it easier to register to vote that’s favored by every election supervisor, most legislators and the League of Women Voters.
Gov. Rick Scott’s chief elections official is in big trouble with two key groups: state legislators who write the voting laws and county supervisors who run elections. Secretary of State Ken Detzner can’t afford to alienate either constituency as Florida heads toward a presidential election in 2016, when the eyes of the nation will again be on the biggest battleground state. Lawmakers blasted Detzner Wednesday for fighting their plan to let people register to vote online by October 2017. Elections officials, meanwhile, were livid to learn that Detzner released private data on more than 45,000 voters — including judges and police officers — and didn’t alert them immediately.
Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official came under intense criticism Wednesday for fighting the Legislature’s plan to allow people in Florida to register to vote online by 2017. Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Scott appointee, appeared before House and Senate committees to oppose the idea, calling online registration a “flashing yellow light” fraught with security risks. Twenty other states have already implemented online voter registration, four more are doing so and the idea has unanimous support from Florida’s 67 county election supervisors, who say it will save money and increase the pool of potential voters.
Florida: Plan to replace Florida’s “obsolete” voter registration system set for July | Herald Tribune
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner verified to the State Senate on Monday that his office is working to “refresh” the state’s glitch-prone voter registration system by July, averting potential problems that could have threatened the 2016 presidential election cycle. Detzner said his office has already ordered the new computer hardware and expects it to be delivered next month. He said his office is on course to have the new voter system up and operating by July. Two weeks ago the Herald-Tribune reported that statewide county supervisors of elections have become increasingly vocal about their concerns over the current Florida Voter Registration System, which has been prone to crashing – sometimes for days at a time. The voting system is a statewide database that is used to check in voters to ensure their eligibility to cast a ballot.
“Habitual” technology failures in an “obsolete” and glitch-prone state voter registration system could have devastating effects in 2016 if not addressed quickly, elections officials across the state say. The aging state computer system is used to check in voters locally, ensuring their eligibility, before they cast ballots. But local elections supervisors say the state system is prone to crash, sometimes for days, precluding efforts to verify that eligibility. They also say the state has been slow to upgrade the hardware, despite millions in federal funding. Florida’s top elections official, Ken Detzner, was not available for comment on Friday. But his spokesman said fixing the system will be his “highest priority.” In a memo to local elections officials this week, the state said it was moving to address the problem this month.
Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t like to lose. But he lost an important court case dealing with voting rights and last week he decided to cut his losses, along with those of Florida taxpayers who have footed the bill for more than 2 ½ years. Scott dropped his appeal of a federal court order that said the state’s efforts to purge the voter rolls of suspected noncitizens during the 2012 presidential campaign violated a federal law that prohibits “systematic” removals less than 90 days before a federal election. And he issued a statement that signaled a new willingness to work with county elections supervisors, who opposed the purge. “Florida is in an excellent position to conduct fair elections,” Scott’s statement said. “I am confident that the 2016 presidential election cycle will put Florida’s election system in a positive light thanks to the improvements made by our supervisors of elections, the Legislature and the Department of State.” As a result, Scott is facing criticism from the right.
Decade-old voting equipment is quickly aging in nearly half the state’s counties, and there has been a struggle at the local level to secure money to cover the replacement costs. Secretary of State Ken Detzner said he will meet next month with local supervisors of election in Orlando to determine which counties are most in need of new equipment before the 2016 elections. “It’s kind of one of those things that you don’t think about until something happens,” Detzner said this week. “We know we need to do something.” Detzner estimated that about 30 counties might need new equipment or upgrades, but he declined to specify the counties. There is no statewide accounting of equipment needs by county. Calls to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office were not returned Tuesday, but Palm Beach County acquired its current voting machines, an optical scanning system, six years ago. Before 2008, the county used a touch-screen voting system, which drew criticism because it left no paper trail. The touch-screen system, in turn, was the county’s answer to the 2000 election that brought national ridicule because of the Butterfly Ballot and problems with punch-card chads.
It’s the nightmare scenario nobody wants to discuss: an election night result for Florida governor that’s so close it demands a recount. “Oh, no, the R-word,” said Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley. “It’s going to be a close one. We’re ready.” It’s Florida. Anything can happen. With polls showing Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist in a virtual deadlock, both sides are making plans in case of a stalemate next week. Republicans and Democrats would mobilize armies of lawyers in a frantic search for ballots, triggering memories of the agonizing and chaotic five-week Florida recount that followed the 2000 presidential election. “Expect the unexpected,” said Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent.