Florida gets $19.2 million to beef up election security

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida has received $19.2 million in federal funds to help beef up election security ahead of the 2018 election. 

The state first said it wouldn’t seek available federal money to increase election security, then the Gov. Rick Scott  ordered an about-face.

The state received the money Thursday, which will be divided up among the state’s 67 supervisors of elections. 

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Early said it’s up to each county to decide what it needs.

“Improving firewalls, hardening our network infrastructure, just some of the smaller counties frankly, they have a hard time with budget cuts and all that kind of thing,” Early said.

Some, like Ron Labasky with the Association of Elections Supervisors, are advocating for new software to help detect when an elections system has been breached.

“Then they can begin to look at where that intrusion may be coming from so that they begin to back up and ensure that there's no access that's available,” Labasky said.

While others, like former Leon County supervisor of elections ion, Sancho said the most pressing issue is implementing electronic auditing systems.

“The law actually requires that a sham audit be done, which cannot in fact scientifically verify attacks on the system,” Sancho said.

Before any of the money can be spent it has to be approved by the Joint Legislative Budget Commission.

Early ssaid the hope is to put the funds to good use before November.

“Time is critical here. I think most counties have good solutions in place,” Early said. "I think some counties are having funding issues and while they may have good processes they can always be improved.”

So far the Joint Legislative Budget Commission has not scheduled a meeting.

In addition to the new federal dollars, the Department of State is in the process of hiring five cybersecurity specialists to support state and local officials during the 2018 election.