A highly critical state audit casts new doubt on whether Florida is ready to count votes in the 2016 presidential election and puts added pressure on Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official to show improvement. The report by the state auditor general, an independent officer hired by the Legislature, criticizes the Department of State for its handling of the voter registration database in the nation’s biggest electoral battleground, a state with nearly 12 million voters and a long history of controversy involving voting. “It’s troubling,” Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said of the report, which was released late last week. The Florida agency is run by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Scott appointee and a former lobbyist with no previous expertise in election systems. He tried unsuccessfully last spring to kill legislation creating an online voter registration system, and issued ominous warnings to lawmakers that “forces of evil” could harm the database.
The review of the state’s management of the Florida Voter Registration System, or FVRS, which contains data on all voters, found that maintenance and performance controls need to be improved; disaster recovery plans have not been tested for four years; 14 workers had “inappropriate” access to the database; employees on the job for less than a year received no security training; and protection of confidential data on voters has to be more secure.
“Without adequate security controls,” auditors wrote, “the risk is increased that the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of FVRS data … may be compromised.”
Auditors said officials could not specifically tell them how many times the database shut down until they began asking questions. The answer they gave is eight times alone between last December and February 2015, including a failure that lasted three days.