A security audit of all 67 Florida counties ordered by Gov. Ron DeSantis has been completed, but once a report is published, it’s not going to advertise what problems were found. “The secretary, basically, reported to us they had visited all 67 counties already,” said Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux, who is the former president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. “And they are in the process of producing a remediation report and we’ll go from there.” Lux added he was not aware of how much remediation has been ordered. DeSantis ordered the security audit in May after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report said Russians successfully hacked two Florida counties in 2016. “There was no manipulation. It didn’t have any effect,” DeSantis said in May. But he said the FBI would not let him name the counties, partly because the FBI said it would help the hackers learn how they were detected.
Articles about voting issues in Florida.
Florida: Russian hackers likely to target Florida again in 2020 election, experts warn | Peter Stone/The Guardian
Florida’s record as a vital swing state made it a target for meddling in the 2016 election when Russians breached two county voting systems and a software vendor and now concerns are being raised about voting security in the state for the 2020 ballot, say election and cyber security experts, federal reports and Democrats. With FBI director Christopher Wray and other intelligence officials predicting more Russian and possibly other foreign interference in the next elections, experts say Florida is again a likely target for Russian hackers, or others bent on disrupting voting, which potentially could alter tallies and create other problems. “Obviously, Florida will be a critical state in 2020 and Florida election officials should assume they will be targeted again,” said Larry Norden, who runs the election reform program at the Brennan Center for Justice. Election security experts are concerned about several potential problem areas, including software that stores sensitive voter registration data, the short timetable for any post-election audits and Florida’s history of voting snafus. Some of Florida’s election problems in 2016 were highlighted in April by special counsel Robert Mueller’s report about Russian interference and in a July Senate intelligence committee study on Russian meddling and election security issues nationwide.
Florida: Broward County elections chief says military adversary could hack US elections. ‘There are forces bigger than us.’ | Anthony Man/South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Broward Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci said Wednesday that a determined effort to hack elections — if it’s undertaken by the military of a significant foreign adversary — could prove successful. Antonacci said in an interview he was acknowledging the obvious reality, even though it’s something many people don’t want to recognize. “If the military organizations of our adversaries around the world decide to do something, technically they have the capability to do it,” he said. “There are forces bigger than us and people much bigger than us that may wish us wrong. If they have the intent and capacity, bad things can happen.” Antonacci said publicly offering the assessment isn’t the kind of thing that will endear him to the broad universe of people who run elections, including other county elections supervisors. “My fellow supervisors will probably drum me out of the club,” he said. “The general thing people in my business like to say is ‘Everything’s OK.’” Antonacci, who oversees elections in Florida’s second-largest county, said his job is to make sure that Broward County has as many safeguards as it can and to have systems in place that can detect if and when something happens. “What we can do as little people in that drama is make sure our system is protected as much as possible.”
Florida: Counties’ elections systems were connected to the internet, report says | Steven Lemongello/Orlando Sentinel
Seven Florida counties have elections systems that have been connected to the internet for months, if not years, according to a report by Vice Motherboard – and one was still connected as of this week. The counties – Bradford, Charlotte, Flagler, Wakulla, Miami-Dade, Pasco and one other county researchers were unable to identify – were among 35 in 10 states in which elections systems were potentially exposed to risk of hacking, Motherboard reported. At least 19 of the systems, including one in Miami-Dade, were still connected to the internet as of August. Elections supervisors in Central Florida said although they use the equipment being cited, none of them believed their systems were exposed. The systems are made by Election Systems & Software, one of the country’s top voting machine companies. Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said 49 of the state’s 67 counties, including Orange, use ES&S equipment. The systems are used to transmit unofficial vote totals via a wireless modem from ES&S voting machines on election night, Motherboard reported. The server that receives these votes is connected to the internet behind a Cisco firewall, both of which are only supposed to be connected to the internet for only a few seconds.
In a recent column I warned that we needed to act to protect our elections against enemies foreign and domestic. It was not my intention to sound alarmist but rather to express my sincere concern for the integrity and fairness of our elections. Since that column appeared I have heard from a U.S. attorney in one of Florida’s districts, several supervisors of elections, a representative from one of the election machine vendors I mentioned and quite a few readers. The latest to weigh in was Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who sent a rebuttal of my column to at least one newspaper where my column appeared. Wow, that really went to the top in short order. Secretary Lee was fairly respectful in her carefully worded response. She was firm in her denials of election system vulnerabilities and touted all that has been done to make Florida’s elections safe. I’d like to believe her but I still have my doubts. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Lee as Florida’s top election official in late January 2019 after his first appointee resigned after less than a month in office. Prior to her appointment, Lee served as a judge for Florida’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit.
Florida: New Senate Intelligence report suggests four Florida counties hacked by Russia | Dave Elias/NBC
It appears that Russia’s attempt to hack Florida’s election system was more intense than first thought. A new Senate Intelligence report suggests that there were actually “four” Florida counties hacked instead of two that we first told you about back in April. The 61-page report details the hack attempts. It now says all 50 states were targets. Florida, which is referred to as “State 2” in the report, was a key target. The report says the feds repeatedly warned the state about potential hacks, but then-Governor Rick Scott said he knew nothing about it until he became a senator. “They got into two counties in Florida. They didn’t get anything done, but they got into two counties,” Scott told NBC Meet the Press. Much of the report was redacted, and every state except Illinois was assigned a number.
Florida: Senate intelligence report adds to confusion over Russian elections hacking in Florida | David Smiley and Alex Daugherty/Miami Herald
Three months after Florida’s state government was blindsided by the release of previously classified information that two local elections offices were hacked ahead of the 2016 presidential elections, Gov. Ron DeSantis and members of Congress have been caught off-guard once again by a newly released intelligence report on Russian elections interference. On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a heavily redacted 67-page report that appears to include new information about efforts by Russian hackers to probe and target elections networks in Florida — including the FBI’s suspicions in 2018 that, in fact, four county elections systems had been hacked rather than two. The report, which mentions that hackers may have carried out cyber reconnaissance missions across all 50 states, details attempts by the Russian intelligence GRU syndicate to probe elections systems in Illinois and 20 other unnamed states. It specifically discusses those efforts in Illinois and an unnamed “State 2,” where details about meetings and cybersecurity efforts appear to mostly jibe with what’s previously been disclosed about the election system hacking attempts in Florida. But the report does not definitively name Florida. And nearly 24 hours after the release of the report, with the Senate Intelligence Committee apparently unwilling or unable to provide more information, Florida’s politicians and elections officials remained stuck in yet another guessing game about Russian hacking and the security of Florida’s elections networks.
Florida: 2020 election: Democrats man up for recount; GOP looks to boost voter ranks | Jennifer Jia/The Palm Beach Post
Brandon Peters, the state party’s voter protection program director, says he told Democratic activists at the state party’s Leadership Blue 2019 meeting in June that they should assume another recount will occur in 2020. Election Day in November 2020 is still more than a year away, but Florida Democrats are already lining up their poll watching, legal and — just in case — recount teams while state Republicans look to drive registrations higher. This past week, a Florida Democratic Party mass email was sent to potential volunteers calling on them to “protect the vote in Florida in 2020.” It added: “Because the GOP will stop at nothing to re-elect Donald Trump next year, it’s important for us to build our roster early.” Brandon Peters, the state party’s voter protection program director, says he told Democratic activists at the state party’s Leadership Blue 2019 meeting in June that they should assume another recount will occur in 2020. “We are going to be prepared,” Peters said. He hopes to recruit as many as 15,000 lawyers and volunteers by July of next year. Peters created a GoFundMe page in January to raise money needed to cover the costs of the effort. Fifty-two donors surpassed the post’s $2,500 goal. The funds will go toward hiring, training and equipping voter protection teams in Florida and Georgia.
Florida: Here’s (more) evidence Bill Nelson suffered from bad ballot design in 2018 | Langston Taylor/Tampa Bay Times
Evidence continues to mount that shows former U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s race for re-election in 2018 was hampered by a ballot design quirk. Florida has already enacted a law that would standardize ballots to avoid a repeat of what happened in part of heavily-Democratic Broward County: a ballot design that made the Senate race “easy to overlook.” It was immediately clear after the Nov. 6 election that far more voters than expected were leaving the Senate box blank. Many of those voters supported other Democrats, like the losing candidate for Governor, Andrew Gillum. In a new academic paper presented Thursday at the Election Sciences, Reform, & Administration Conference, two researchers looked beyond vote totals, drilling down to the individual ballot level. What they found was this: In Broward County, voters who skipped the Senate race likely did so by accident, rather than purposely avoiding the race. Broward County ballots put voting instructions in the first column, rather than stripped across the top. That design pushed the Senate race far down the page, isolating it from other marquee contests.
Florida: Lawmakers push DHS to notify voters, other officials of election system breaches | Olivia Beavers/The Hill
A pair of House lawmakers from Florida have introduced new legislation that would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to notify voters and other parties of potential breaches to election systems. Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D) and Mike Waltz (R) introduced their measure following revelations earlier this year that Russia infiltrated computer networks in two counties in the Sunshine State ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Members of the Florida congressional delegation blasted federal agencies in May for their lack of transparency about the cyberattacks, saying they only received an FBI briefing on the matter when former special counsel Robert Mueller revealed in his report that the bureau was investigating a Moscow-led hack into “at least one” Florida county. The FBI, which informed the Florida delegation that Russia had infiltrated a second county, has not permitted the members of Congress to reveal the names of which counties were targeted.
Fifty-five Florida counties’ Supervisors of Elections offices will get state grants to improve their elections and voter database security, thanks to redistribution of more than $2.3 million in unexpended funds authorized by Gov. Ron DeSantis and approved by Secretary of State Laurel Lee. The grants respond to applications from the counties, and range from $524,838 for Orange County to just $229 for Hendry County. The redirected funds are in addition to $2.8 million for election security that the Florida Legislature approved, making available in the upcoming fiscal year. that makes for a total of $5.1 million for election security heading toward 2020. The newly announced awards and the earlier appropriations have come after revelations that Russian hackers had managed to infiltrate two Florida Supervisors of Elections’ computer systems in the 2016 election. The identities of those two counties have not been publicly revealed.
Florida’s 67 county elections departments will retain $2.3 million in unspent grant money aimed at stopping cyber-attacks on the state’s voting system in the run up to the state’s presidential primary in March. The unspent money is left over from a $19 million federal grant last year, to combat potential attacks on the state’s voting system. Gov. Ron DeSantis calls election security a “cornerstone” of democracy; and that the money will be used to continue work on the systems targeted by Russian hackers in 2016. “We have 67 different elections that are run,” said the Governor. “Not every county has the same amount of resources, so we want to be there to offer support, so the elections run smoothly.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday announced a $5.1 million statewide initiative aimed at securing Florida’s voting systems against cyberattacks ahead of the 2020 elections. Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and all 67 supervisors of elections throughout the state will participate in the program, with the goal of eliminating “any vulnerabilities in our elections infrastructure,” DeSantis said in a statement. The Florida Department of State will distribute $2.3 million to election supervisors to make security improvements, adding to the $2.8 million for election security efforts already approved by the state legislature as part of the fiscal 2020 budget.
Florida: State has $5.1 million to spend on election security ahead of 2020 voting | Ana Ceballos/Miami Herald
A month after learning Russian hackers breached elections systems in two Florida counties in 2016, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said his administration is focused on identifying “any vulnerabilities” ahead of next year’s elections. The Republican governor announced he is redistributing $2.3 million in election-security money that went unspent by county elections supervisors last year. The funds are in addition to $2.8 million for elections cybersecurity that Florida lawmakers earmarked in the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1. “This has become an issue in the last couple of months in a way that I did not, and really nobody, appreciated,” the governor told reporters at a Monday press conference. The unspent money from the 2018 election cycle will be redistributed to 61 of the state’s 67 counties. The additional $2.8 million will be given to those with the most critical needs, according to Secretary of State Laurel Lee.
Florida: Senators Question FBI’s Response to 2016 Russian Hack of Florida Election Tech | Brandi Vincent/Nextgov
A pair of Democratic lawmakers penned a letter this week grilling the Federal Bureau of Investigations on the steps it’s taking to investigate and protect American election technology vendors from potential Russian-led cyber-hacking. In a correspondence addressed to FBI director Christopher Wray, Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., questioned the bureau’s response to the Russian government’s potential hack of the Florida-based manufacturer of voter-registration software and election pollbooks, VR Systems, during the November 2016 election. The senators reference Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, highlighting that about three months ahead of the election, Russian GRU officers “targeted employees of [redacted], a voting technology company that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls, and installed malware on the company network.”
Florida: This small election tech firm in Florida may have been Russia’s front door to the 2016 election | Mark Sullivan/Fast Company
Two high-profile U.S. senators have taken a keen interest in a small Florida-based election tech company that may have unwittingly been used by Russian hackers to interfere with the U.S. presidential election in 2016. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Wednesday sent a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray asking for more information about the agency’s interactions with Tallahassee, Florida-based VR Systems, which makes the “pollbook” devices used by counties in eight states around the country to verify the eligibility of voters arriving at the polls. The senators emphasized that “Congress and the American people still do not have a complete picture of the federal government’s efforts to detect and defend against this attack against our democracy.” VR Systems was referenced–first in a leaked 2018 NSA report, then in the Mueller report–as the “U.S. Vendor” or “Vendor 1,” targeted in a GRU (Russian military) spearfishing attack that took place between August and November of 2016. The FBI and the NSA believe the GRU may have been trying to access the email addresses of VR Systems’ county election board end users, then send malicious code to those users that could alter the behavior of the company’s voter check-in hardware and software on election day.
Florida: Most Florida Election Officials Forfeited Some Security Cash | Samantha-Jo Roth/Spectrum News
The majority of Florida’s 67 counties were forced to forfeit thousands of dollars in election security funding from the federal government ahead of the 2018 midterms, according to documents obtained by Spectrum News from the Florida Department of State. A Spectrum News investigation found the majority of election officials across the state believe strict guidelines and short deadlines put in place by the state forced them to return more than $1 million in untapped funds to the State’s federal trust fund. Florida has emerged as ground zero in preventing hacking and Russian interference after the Mueller report revealed Russia successfully hacked election systems in two Florida counties in 2016. “This is the backbone of our democracy, it’s just too important,” said Brian Corley, the Supervisor of Elections in Pasco County in an interview with Spectrum News. “The bad guys have to be right one time, we have to be right every time,” he added.
Florida: Official tells Florida Democrats to expect recount in 2020 | Mike Schneider/Associated Press
The new voter protection director for Florida Democrats told party activists on Saturday that they should assume there will be a recount during next year’s presidential election. “We are going to be prepared,” Brandon Peters told a packed room of Democratic activists at the state party’s Leadership Blue 2019 meeting at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Peters, who was hired by the state party last month, said there will be teams of volunteers trained in how to monitor county canvassing boards for recount problems around the state, should one take place in the 2020 presidential election. Florida became famous for recounts after the 2000 presidential election, and last year there were recounts in three statewide races. The Florida Democratic Party is the second state Democratic party in the nation to hire a voter protection director, behind the Georgia Democratic Party.
Florida: FBI urged to disclose Florida election hack details after ignoring request | Andrew Blake/Washington Times
The FBI faced fresh calls Friday to release additional details about the hacking campaign that compromised election systems in Florida during the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Rep. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat, pressed for transparency nearly two months since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report about Russian election interference began to reveal the scope of its success in the Sunshine State. The FBI assessed that Russian hackers infiltrated at least one Florida county government during the 2016 race, Mr. Mueller wrote in the report. Many state officials were unaware of the breach prior to the report’s publication, and individuals briefed by the FBI afterward said they were told that a total of two Florida counties had been compromised. Nearly no further details have emerged since, however, and Florida’s governor said he signed a non-disclosure agreement legally preventing him from revealing what counties were hacked.
Florida: Election officials wanted an elections cybersecurity team. Lawmakers said no. | Lawrence Mower/Tampa Bay Times
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he wants state officials to “review” the state’s elections systems after news that two county elections offices were hacked in 2016. But for the last two years, Florida’s secretaries of state have asked for that help — only to be turned down twice by state lawmakers. Last year, then-Secretary of State Ken Detzner asked the Legislature for $488,000 to create a full-time elections cybersecurity team with five people, according to the department. Even though it was a measly amount in the scope of their $88.7 billion budget, lawmakers refused, and the department instead hired five cybersecurity contractors to help local supervisors in last year’s election. This year, Secretary of State Laurel Lee asked lawmakers for $1.5 million to keep those cybersecurity contractors, and lawmakers again refused. Thankfully, all were not lost.