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Florida Voter Registration Data-Sharing Legislation Advances

By Tim Harper

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Last week, the Florida legislature took a crucial step toward joining the nationwide effort to share voter registration information among states to improve the accuracy and integrity of voter lists. These data sharing programs are recommended by the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) and supported by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Florida and nationwide. The two Florida bills—SB 1070 and SB 1072—sponsored by state Sen.Travis Hutson (R), passed out of the Ethics and Elections Committee unanimously and now heads to the Appropriations and Rules Committee before it will face a final vote before the full Florida Senate. Similar legislation, HB 707, has been sponsored by state Rep. Ross Spano (R) in the Florida House of Representatives where it has been modified and reported out of the Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee.

Cross-state data sharing initiatives were recommended by the PCEA due to their proven ability to improve the accuracy and integrity of voter rolls and to engage with eligible but unregistered voters. Interstate data sharing initiatives, such as the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, and the Interstate Voter Registration Cross Check, or IVRC, improve integrity by matching millions of voter records from one state with those of other participating states. The data matches can identify voters that have registered in two states, voters that have moved between states, and those that have died. States can then take appropriate actions to responsibly remove identified voters from rolls who are no longer eligible to vote in the state. These programs can also help states to proactively engage eligible but unregistered voters by identifying voting age citizens that have not registered or have not changed their registration after moving and sends them information on how to register in their state.

Florida’s participation would improve interstate data sharing initiatives like ERIC and IVRC as well as the accuracy of the voter rolls in the state.

The Florida legislation includes several key provisions. SB 1070 authorizes the Florida secretary of state to enter interstate agreements to share voter registration information with other states. This language will empower the secretary’s office to interact with the different groups of states working together to maintain the accuracy of voter rolls. Due to strict data privacy laws, this is barred by current law. SB 1072 allows Florida to receive confidential information sent from other states to check voter registration rolls and exempts this information from public records requests. The legislation would go into effect on July 1, 2017.

Florida’s participation would improve interstate data sharing initiatives like ERIC and IVRC as well as the accuracy of the voter rolls in the state. Florida is a large state with a high proportion of seasonal residents with more than one residence, which present unique challenges. By participating, Florida and all participating states will benefit from another 12.8 million voter records to match against.

BPC has played a supportive role on interstate data sharing in Florida and across the country. In Florida, BPC has met with state legislators and executive branch staff to explain the election administration benefits of registration data sharing programs, and worked extensively with local Florida election officials to make registration data-sharing a priority .

KEYWORDS: FLORIDA, PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON ELECTION ADMINISTRATION, VOTER REGISTRATION, ELECTION