Russian Attacks on Florida County Voting Systems Must Be Countered with Action and Federal Funds

Statement of Liza McClenaghan, Common Cause Florida Board Chair

Floridians expect and deserve to know that state and federal officials are taking proper precautions to safeguard the integrity of election systems. As a perennial election battleground state, we know that we are and will remain a target. New revelations that not one, but two Florida county election systems were breached by Russian hackers during the 2016 election cycle raise serious concerns that must be addressed by state officials and the U.S. Congress.

The point is not which two counties were attacked and who knew, but what has the government at all levels done to safeguard the existing systems in every county and to anticipate the next generation of cyberattacks. Those attacks have no doubt already begun in the run-up to the 2020 election, and more are coming. These inevitable attacks must be addressed by the state and the federal government.

We deserve to know what has been and will be done to safeguard Florida’s elections systems against future attacks. Are the networks and databases clear? Do we have the right tools to detect and protect our election systems going forward? Are we expending the resources provided by Congress through EAC Help America Vote Act funds appropriately?

The White House may be unwilling to address the ongoing and serious threat to our election systems but Congress must act and it must act decisively. Congress is now in the process of deciding whether to appropriate more money to the states for election security. It is outrageous that the federal government would leave counties to fend for themselves against the attacks of a nation state like Russia. Last year Congress appropriated $380 million to the states of which $19 million went to Florida. That amount must triple this year.

2016 proved that foreign governments have much to gain from meddling in our elections. More attacks are on the way. State and federal officials must take steps and provide sufficient funding to safeguard our election systems and proper deterrents must be in place to ensure that hostile foreign powers pay a steep price for attacking our democracy.