TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – In the wake of Russia accessing two Florida voting databases, Governor Ron DeSantis is ordering the review of elections systems security and cyber security throughout the state.
In a letter to Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, he “directs the Department of State to immediately initiate a review of the security, particularly the cybersecurity, of our state’s elections systems and the elections systems of Florida’s 67 counties.”
The directive came eight days after DeSantis held a news conference to announce that the FBI had advised him that election records in two counties were hacked by Russians in 2016. DeSantis said he had signed a non-disclosure agreement that barred him from identifying the two counties, but the Washington Post and Politico subsequently reported that rural Washington County in the Panhandle was one of the targets.
The letter Wednesday and a news release quoting DeSantis and Lee do not explain how the security review will be conducted or what it will entail. The release said the state has funneled millions of dollars in recent years into improving elections security, including distributing $14.5 million in federal grants to supervisors of elections in 2018.
DeSantis and other officials have said the 2016 hacking did not involve “manipulation” of voting results. The hackers accessed voter-information files, not the systems that do vote tallying, FBI officials told DeSantis.
“Public faith in our elections is the bedrock of our democracy and we must do everything within our power to preserve the integrity of our elections systems,” said Governor DeSantis. “While the breaches did not compromise the outcome of the 2016 election, nonetheless, they highlight the importance of protecting the security of our elections system. Therefore, I am directing the Secretary of State to immediately initiate a review of the security and cybersecurity of Florida’s elections systems.”
“Our number one priority is working with Supervisors of Elections to enhance cyber security for our elections,” said Secretary of State Laurel Lee. “We stand together with our Supervisors of Elections against threats to our elections. The Department of State is committed to providing resources to help ensure the safety and security of Florida’s elections and the protection of voter information.”
The Florida Department of State and Supervisors of Elections have taken significant action in the last three years to improve election security, according to the Governor’s office. Since 2017, when elections were designated as critical infrastructure, the Florida Department of State and Supervisors of Elections have invested millions of dollars into election security.
Major questions about the hacking have been left publicly unanswered as the 2020 elections, including the presidential election, approach. The Washington Post reported that a Russian military agency, known as the GRU, was behind the penetration of the Washington County database.