By David Sutta

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Concern over election security is a hot topic ahead of November’s midterm elections. Could our voting system be hacked or manipulated?  It seems election security may be making more headlines than the candidates themselves may this year.  Every day it seems the topic comes up with a new rumor, a new story, and lately new warnings.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson has made claims some of Florida’s election systems have been breached.  Governor Rick Scott, who is running against Nelson for his Senate seat has been critical of the claim.

“Either Bill Nelson knows crucial information that the federal government is withholding from election officials or he is simply making this up,” Scott said.

At Miami-Dade Elections headquarters, Supervisor Christina White has increasingly had to deal with questions about our votes.

“It is difficult because as Supervisors of Elections our main job is to make sure that voter confidence is at a height. And there is lots of news media and other conversations going on about the integrity of the election.  So we are now constantly at a point where we are having to defend that,” White explained.

White says they have taken many unprecedented steps to ensure voting systems are secure.  Much of it though, she cannot discuss.

“All of the cyber security and physical security experts that we have been talking to across the state; and that would include the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, National Guard, they all say that you probably should not talk too much about the security that you have in place and the protections that you have in place because you don’t want to invite some sort of attempt at a breach,” she explained.

Despite rumors and accusations of breaches, none of Florida’s elections offices has confirmed they have been hacked.

Still election supervisors have backup systems in place should something unexpected happen.

Over the last year, investigations have uncovered attempts to hack registration systems.  The goal would be to delete or manipulate your registration, creating chaos at poll sites.

Many election supervisors are monitoring the registration systems in real time, looking for signs of tampering.  Miami-Dade is even putting paper copies of voter registrations at every poll site just in case electronic systems go down.

“If you are voter that comes in and for some reason you are being told that you are not on the voter registration list, we would give you a provisional ballot,” White told CBS4.

Every provisional ballot is reviewed by the elections canvassing board. When it comes to your actual vote, Florida keeps quite a paper trail.

“We have the paper ballot which is probably the best thing that I can tell our voters.  In the state of Florida, we have a paper ballot voting system, so if anything were to happen we actually have a record of every single vote that was cast in the election that we can go back to should we need to,” White explained.

What about where votes are tabulated?  Could those machines be hacked?  White says no.

“Our tabulation center is what is called a closed network.  There is absolutely no internet connection to my tabulation center.  And it works that way all throughout the state.  Without internet connection there is no opportunity for breach,” she said.

White told CBS4, staff with access to tabulation rooms are background checked and many are senior management.

As Election Day draws closer, she hopes voters do not fall for misinformation and rumors that this election could be stolen.

“If you listen to that they win.  So please have faith in your elections department locally and throughout the state.  And know that we are doing everything to protect your vote,” White stated.

Much of the efforts these days by hackers may not be to actually hack our election systems.   All they really need to do is create the perception we have been hacked.  If a website can be taken down or some other system manipulated, regardless of its importance, it can create doubt about the integrity of the system.  Needless to say, hacked or not, elections offices have their work cut out for them this year.

RELATED LINKS:

To participate in Florida’s primary election, you need to have registered to vote by July 30. But there’s still time to register for the general election in November. The deadline to register for the general election is Oct. 9.

  • For our Voter Guide, Helpful Links and Candidate Interviews, click here.
  • For more on Campaign 2018, click here.
  • For more voter information, FAQ’s and helpful links, click here.
  • To see candidate interviews on CBSMiami.com, click here.
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