Scott calls for drawing down elections security money

- Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday directed the Florida Department of State to draw down $19.2 million in federal funding for beefing up elections cybersecurity. The directive came after Secretary of State Ken Detzner told reporters that counties shouldn’t expect the money before this year’s elections, as the Legislature must approve the spending. 

Last month, a group of Democratic U.S. House members from Florida implored Detzner to apply for the federal money, which is available to Florida as part of $380-million included in a federal spending bill to help states secure election systems.

“While most state systems were not breached, the U.S. intelligence community has repeatedly warned that Russia will try to disrupt midterm elections in November,” the Democrats wrote. 

At the time, Detzner’s office said it had started the process to secure the money. Scott’s directive indicates the paperwork had yet to be completed. 

“The department will submit a plan to the federal government as outlined by federal law to bolster security for local elections offices, who are responsible for elections security,” a news release from the governor’s office said. “Once this plan is approved by Federal Elections Assistance Commission, DOS (the Department of State) will work with the Florida Legislature to provide this funding to supervisors of elections, as well as bolster state efforts to enhance cybersecurity and voting practices prior to this November’s elections.” 

The Department of State received $1.9 million in the state’s new $88.7-billion budget for next fiscal year to establish a network-monitoring security program that provides automated alerts about threats, allowing county election officials to respond when data may be at risk. The Legislature did not provide funding to fulfill the department’s request for five additional full-time employees to serve in cybersecurity positions. 

Earlier this month, Scott directed Detzner to hire five cybersecurity specialists to work as consultants with county elections officials.

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