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Secretary of State’s petition gatherers’ site not working

Site was created after HB 5 required petition gatherers to be registered

The Florida Secretary of State’s website for registration of petition signature gatherers is not working properly, and there is no immediate fix in sight.

In a statement, Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee said the Department of State is aware of the problems with the site designed to register petition gatherers for statewide ballot initiatives involving proposed constitutional amendments, and is providing alternative ways for individuals to submits requests to register.

She also said “we do not have any reason to believe” that there were any external intrusions, hacks.

“The petition process is important, and we are doing everything in our means to ensure the process continues as smoothly as possible. The Department of State is aware that there are operational issues with the Division of Elections Paid Petition Circulator website,” Lee said in a written statement. “We do not have any reason to believe that these operational issues are the result of external system intrusions. The Department was required by statute to develop this website on a short timeline and we are working hard to correct these issues and improve operability of the site.”

“In the meantime, the Department has provided an alternative method for individuals to submit requests to register. We are communicating these alternatives to initiative sponsors and any individuals who have submitted requests for registration,” her statement added.

The site was created this summer and went live in July in response to House Bill 5, passed by the Legislature to restructure the petition gathering process. HB 5 bans organizers from paying petitioners by the signature. Instead, they must be paid a wage or by the hour. It also requires that gatherers be registered with the Secretary of State.

However, the website has created headaches since it debuted in July and in recent weeks it has worked sporadically, if at all, the Tampa Bay Times is reporting.

Those problems reached a “crisis point” in the past week, Alex Patton, a political consultant for Citizens for Energy Choice, the organization fighting to deregulate the power grid, told the Times. Worse, Patton said, he couldn’t get an explanation from the Department of State and was repeatedly told the site was just slow. On Monday, a lawyer for Citizens for Energy Choice sent the state a letter demanding answers and an immediate fix.

By the evening, Patton had received an email from the state outlining its alternative option, the Times reported. The note said the website is “undergoing maintenance.”

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