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Heading into election season, is Florida's system secure?

Only 7 counties have implemented rigorous auditing systems

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Election experts in the state are joining Sen. Marco Rubio in expressing concerns over the security of the state’s election system.

Only seven counties in the state have implemented rigorous auditing systems to ensure the validity of election results: Leon, Bay, St. Lucie, Putnam, Nassau, Columbia and Broward (which is currently in its pilot stage).

That means there are still 60 more counties in Florida that may be unprepared for possible threats to this year’s election.

Leon County upgraded its system by implementing additional auditing measures.

“It is very powerful in that it looks for problems in marking ballots,” said Mark Early, the county’s supervisor of elections.

Experts say that the 60 counties without a rigorous auditing system likely will not be able to implement protections before the upcoming election cycle. But the additional measures aren’t required by state law. 

“I have to fault the Florida Legislature for failing to enact legislation that would require more use of this technology,” said Ion Sancho, a former president of the Florida State Association of Supervisor of Elections.

The governor asked to hire five cybersecurity experts in the 2018 budget, but the Legislature ignored the request. 

“They're overconfident that they're OK -- and quite frankly, that is hubris,” Sancho said.

The Legislature did approve $1.9 million in federal funding to help counties purchase additional security equipment.

Still, author Eric Eggers said that's not enough.

“No one is really incentivized to detect or expose election fraud, because that undermines the very basis of our democratic ideals,” Eggers said.

During the 2016 election, five Florida counties were unsuccessfully targeted by Russian hackers. Experts believe those attacks aren’t likely to stop any time soon.

The Florida Department of State is working to hire additional cybersecurity personnel prior to the 2018 election, saying in a statement that it is laser-focused on election security moving forward.