Elections supervisors speak out on security

PHOTO: Person filling out a ballot, Photo Date: August 15, 2016
PHOTO: Person filling out a ballot, Photo Date: August 15, 2016(KMVT)
Published: May. 31, 2018 at 5:45 PM CDT
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Following a meeting with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who has called elections supervisors “overconfident”, Florida election officials say they have security in place to prevent foreign actors from tampering with this year's election.

In 2016, suspected Russian hackers got into a Tallahassee company. It provides support to the majority of the state's elections supervisors. At least five suspicious emails were intercepted before they were opened in county supervisor's offices.

Mark Early was one of the supervisors meeting with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

“We don’t think we want a repeat of 2016 where there was information out there that could have been helpful to us, but we can’t get our hands on that data to make good decisions on how to handle any threats we may not know about, so we are doing our best,” said the 32-year veteran elections official.

Supervisor told Rubio they were prepared.

We asked Ron Labasky, who represents the Florida State Association of Elections Supervisors if supervisors are overconfident.

“Absolutely not,” he responded. "We are confident we are doing everything absolutely possible to ensure we are secure.”

The dilemma for elections supervisors is they don’t know what they don’t know and the federal government isn’t sharing what they know.

In a statement, Rubio said he would push federal officials to share more about Russian-sponsored attacks in 2016.

On a second front, the state has applied from $19 million in federal funds for increased security. It initially said it would not request the money for this election. Supervisor Early says it could go for backup servers and more.

“Better training and some things I don’t want to get into," he said.

The main message from supervisors: voting machines are not online so nobody can mess with your vote… but what no one is promising is that someone won’t wreak havoc on online voter databases.

Once the state receives the $19 million in federal dollars, a special committee of the legislature will have to approve spending it, and then supervisors will have to submit detailed plans on how they will use it.