Election officials hope to recover $1.4 million in unspent security funds

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - More than $1 million meant to enhance election security for the 2018 election cycle in Florida went unspent and had to be returned to the state. Supervisors of Elections said tight deadlines are to blame.

The Secretary of State’s Office said it’s currently evaluating how the $1.4 million left over from 2018 can be returned to election officials. (MGN)

In 2018, Florida received $19.2 million from the federal government to help improve election security. Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley said the money was able to be spent on a wide range of security enhancements.

“Software that could better protect our systems and track problems, but also we had a new building here so physical security of the building,” said Earley.

But the turnaround to spend the money was tight; less than four months All the while, supervisors were preparing for the upcoming midterm elections.

“Having to have it all spent before November 1st was a bit of a challenge,” said Earley.

The end result was that all but nine counties were unable to spend all the money they received. The remaining $1.4 million had to be returned to the state.

"The concern was that it was either a use it or lose it,” said Earley. "There was no guarantees that anybody would see that money again."

The 2019-2020 budget has a total of $2.8 million to improve election security. It becomes available July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

The Secretary of State’s Office said it’s currently evaluating how the $1.4 million left over from 2018 can be returned to election officials. Earley said the more money the better, especially with the revelation that two Florida counties' election systems were breached in 2016.

Another general election is also just over a year away.

“Every improvement that we can make is another way to combat any kind of distrust or uncertainty that the voting public might have,” said Earley.

Supervisors expect the funds will go to counties with the greatest needs, possibly the counties that had to return the most money to the state last year.

Election Supervisors said they’re optimistic based on their discussions with the new administration that if and when the leftover money becomes available, they won’t face the same tight time constraints seen last year.