Florida moves forward on cybersecurity money

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida submitted paperwork Wednesday to draw down $19.2 million in federal funding to beef up elections cybersecurity.

The Florida Department of State announced the required documents had been sent to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a week after Gov. Rick Scott directed the action.

“Once the department receives the funding, we will work with the Florida Legislature to provide funding to supervisors of elections as well as bolster state efforts to enhance cybersecurity and voting practices prior to November’s elections,” department spokeswoman Sarah Revell said in a prepared statement.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has repeatedly warned of a “level of overconfidence” about the security of the nation’s election system heading into the 2018 elections, met with some county supervisors to discuss security.

“While I have confidence in the competence and commitment of Florida’s election officials, cyber threats sponsored by a nation state are sophisticated and constantly evolving,” Rubio said in a statement.

Rubio added he intends to push federal officials to share more information with Florida and other states regarding Russian-sponsored attacks during the 2016 elections.

A day before Scott’s directive on seeking the federal money, Secretary of State Ken Detzner had told reporters that counties shouldn’t expect the money before this year’s elections, as the Legislature --- which has already held its 60-day regular session --- must approve the spending.

A group of Democratic U.S. House members from Florida had also 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.

Florida lawmakers have included $1.9 million in the state’s $88.7 billion budget for next fiscal year to establish a network-monitoring security program for the Division of Elections 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.