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Here is what you need about the 2020 elections across the greater Tampa Bay region.

Orange County Sent Incorrect Voter Registration Data To State Of Florida

The Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office is blaming a widely used elections software company for a false report to the state that nearly a quarter million registered voters had been removed from the county's voting rolls. That incorrect number made it into a monthly data report by the Florida Division of Elections. The report lists 257,698 “active” voters that were removed from the voting rolls across the state in January. Out of that total number, 239,147 of the removed voters were from Orange County alone.

The published data would have meant that Orange County removed more than 150 times the total number of voters as compared to the county with the second-most voters removed. It also would have meant that more “active” voters were removed from voting rolls from a single county and during a single month than the total number of voters removed from across the entire state annually going back to 2017, according to state data.

Questioned about the outlier data, the Orange County Supervisor of Elections said the information it sent to the state was incorrect. The office pointed the finger at software from VR Systems, a third-party company that started handling the county’s voter registration system in mid-December.

“The anomaly appearing on the Monthly Report of New and Removed Voters appears to be due to the synchronization process run by our vendor as part of this software conversion,” spokesperson Danaë Rivera-Marasco wrote to WLRN in an email.

She pointed to end-of-month statistics posted on the Supervisor of Elections website that show a net increase of 5,969 active voters during the month of January 2020.

According to the revised numbers provided from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office to WLRN, Orange County still led the state in voters removed from the voting rolls during the month of January. A total of 3,849 voters were removed from the rolls last month. 

That’s still more than double the number of voters removed from Pinellas County, which had 1,456 active voters removed during the same timeframe. Miami-Dade County had 1,408 voters removed during this timeframe; Broward County had 1,427.

The Florida Division of Elections did not respond to multiple requests for comment, though the office acknowledged the erroneous data. VR Systems did not immediately return a request for comment. The erroneous data is still posted on the state website.

“We have spoken with both VR Systems and the state,” said Rivera-Marasco of the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office. “We expect to hear back and have this issue resolved soon.”

The city of Orlando is inside of Orange County. The county is one of the most populous in Florida, and has long been considered a Democratic stronghold in the swing state. The county has voted Democrat in every presidential race since it voted for Al Gore in the contested 2000 election. In 2016, more than 60 percent of the county voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump.

Tallahassee-based VR Systems was a target of Russian hackers during the 2016 presidential elections, according to classified reports published by the Intercept in 2017. The company has repeatedly denied that any of the attempts were successful.

The company was founded in 1992. Though a complete client list is not publicly available, the company has boasted in press releases that its software is used in some capacity by “over 95 percent of Florida counties,” in addition to election offices in fourteen other states.

Voters can be removed from the statewide rolls if they request to be removed, if they move out of state, are in prison, or if they don’t vote for two presidential election cycles in a row.

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