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Florida Lawmakers Move To Restrict Teen Voter Information

Jan 17, 2019

In Florida, voter pre-registration is open to both 16 and 17-year-olds, which means their private information like phone numbers, addresses, and birth dates is public record. Two Florida lawmakers are trying to change that.

In advance of the legislative session scheduled for March 5, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, and Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, R-St. Johns, presented companion bills (HB 281 and SB 342). Both bills present measures that would restrict the publication of the personal information of underage voters.

Stevenson told WJCT in Jacksonville that her bill is a matter of safety.

“In my office, I had significant complaints about that from parents who their children were getting solicited for credit cards and those type of things," she said. "Some that were concerned that the information be used to stalk them.”

Frank LoMonte, Director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, thinks the restriction of this information could create accessibility issues.

“If you create a certain class of voter whose information is not going to be disclosed,” he said, “then there is some risk that you are denying them access to the same information that all other voters are getting.”

LoMonte also questioned whether or not another restriction is necessary.

“We already have over 1100 exemptions to the public records act and the legislature has already made some pretty good compromises and precautions about protecting voter registration information that really actually could be harmful.”

Rep. Cyndi Stevenson debates on the House floor on April 25, 2017.
Credit Florida House of Representatives

Should the bill pass, Stevenson stated she will try to extend these privacy restrictions to all Floridians.

LoMonte cautioned lawmakers to consider whether or not an actual danger is posed or if the issue is an abstract concern.

“The starting point under Florida Law and indeed under the Florida Constitution is that the public has a right to all the information that the government possesses.”

Additional information courtesy of WJCT Public Media in Jacksonville and The News Service of Florida.