Florida Record

Friday, November 22, 2019

Election general counsel sides with judge's decision about voter registration

By Karen Kidd | Nov 6, 2016

General court 05

TALLAHASSEE -- As Tuesday's general election approaches, a federal judge's recent rejection of a Florida Democratic Party request to allow unverified voters to cast ballots was the right decision, says an election general counsel.

"I believe the judge was correct in determining that the registrations were being processed as quickly as possible," Ronald Labasky, general counsel for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections (FSASE), told the Florida Record.

On Oct. 20, U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Walker said there was no evidence that Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner wasn't doing enough to handle the 72,000 voter registration forms county election offices received the previous week.

That backlog, much of which had been blamed on Hurricane Matthew, has been addressed, Labasky said.

"Most of the backlog has been eliminated by the state," he said.

Officials with Florida's Democratic Party had asked Walker to require all voter registration forms to be processed by Oct. 23, the day before most counties in the state were expected to begin early voting. The party also wanted the secretary of state's office to issue detailed lists of pending registrants with an eye toward allowing members of any party to offer assistance. That request also was turned down.

Concern over backlogged voter registration forms is not the only issue with which Florida election officials have had to contend. In a two-page open letter to Florida voters, FSASE President Chris H. Chambless responded to stories about potential vulnerabilities of U.S. voting systems to cyber attacks. Chambless reminded voters that Florida is still an almost entirely paper ballot state, which means there are few possibilities for cyber-based attacks.

Even so, Chambless said the chance of widespread electronic voting being sabotaged by cyber attacks is very remote.

"Electronic voting systems are not Internet-based and do not connect to each other online (closed network)," Chambless said in his letter. "Prior to each election, a public logic and accuracy test is conducted of each voting tabulator and tabulation system to ensure that they are working and tabulating properly. The individual thumb drives that record the votes from the precincts, early voting sites and vote by mail central count tabulators are digitally signed and secured. They cannot be replaced by any commercial off the shelf (COTS) thumb drive to subvert the local process of counting ballots."

It is improbable that Florida, as a paper-based state that uses the latest state-of-the-art electronic voting systems, could be taken down by an Internet-based breech, Chambless concluded in his letter.

"Rest assured that Florida's election professionals place a high priority on the security of election administration, and will remain ever vigilant in identifying and reporting any future vulnerability to the election process," Chambless wrote.

Change is underway in Florida that will mean residents in that state will have a new option during the next presidential election cycle. In May of 2015, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure requiring the state division of elections to develop an online voter-registration application by Oct. 1, 2017.

That isn't an option for Tuesday's election, but even that change will have to be scrutinized, Labasky said.

"With the advent of online registration in Florida beginning in 2017, verification methods may need to be re-evaluated," he said.

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State of FloridaU.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division