Less than three months from the primary election, it is entirely unclear whether Florida is adequately prepared to fend off any cyber attacks that could compromise the results. Sen. Marco Rubio has his doubts, the state has yet to receive millions in federal dollars to improve security and county elections supervisors acknowledge they are scared. With the federal investigation continuing into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Gov. Rick Scott and state officials should accelerate efforts this summer to ensure voters can have confidence in the integrity of this year’s election. The state’s track record so far is not encouraging. The Legislature failed to approve money for the five cyber security experts Scott wanted to hire even though the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported last year that five Florida counties were targeted in unsuccessful Russian attacks in 2016. Counties are still buying and installing sensors that can monitor and detect — but not stop — electronic attacks with $1.9 million in federal money sent by the state. And just last week, Scott overruled the state’s top elections official and declared the state will belatedly seek another $19 million in federal money to help counties further secure election systems.
And remember, early voting for the Aug. 28 primary begins in less than two months.
It’s inexplicable why Florida did not seek the additional federal money as soon as President Donald Trump signed a spending bill into law in March that provided $380 million to the states to harden their election systems. At least 16 states already have applied for the money, but Secretary of State Ken Detzner told county election supervisors last week that none of that money would be available to them before the November election. That infuriated election supervisors who spent last week talking about cyber security and getting advice from Department of Homeland Security officials. Within hours of the Times/Herald reporting Detzner’s remarks, Scott overruled him and ordered his chief elections official to seek the federal money.