Despite criticism, officials ensure votes will be counted accurately in state election

Department of State to hire additional cybersecurity personnel

By Jake Stofan - Tallahassee corespondent

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Election supervisors are fighting back against the claim that they’re overconfident in the state’s election security, but some counties are ensuring your vote is counted accurately.

In a statement, a representative with the Florida Department of State said it has taken “significant steps in recent years to upgrade hardware, software and firewalls.”

The department also plans to hire additional cybersecurity personnel ahead of the 2018 election.

With the 2018 midterm elections drawing ever closer, criticism of Florida’s election security has been a hot button issue for politicians like Sen. Marco Rubio, who called election officials overconfident. 

“I would in no way say that we are overconfident," Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said. "We have been giving everything we have ... to make sure that voters know when they come out to cast their vote (that) their vote will count.”

Florida law requires a sample of ballots to be hand audited after each election to ensure accuracy. Now, seven counties have taken that auditing process a step further by implementing an electronic auditing system called Clear Audit.

In a normal audit, elections officials have to comb through hundreds of ballot boxes looking for specific precincts. The electronic auditing system takes the manual search out by scanning ballots into a database.

“It allows you to find the paper you need to review much more efficiently," said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Early, who used the database in the 2016 election. “Having a good audit system in place is a very good protection and it's kind of your baseline. That's the most critical thing, is making sure you're counting your ballots right.”

There are 60 counties that don’t use the Clear Audit system, but say manual audits have still proven effective and accurate.

“It just doesn't mean that one method is necessarily better than the other, or vice versa," Corley said.

While auditing is one piece of the puzzle, supervisors are working with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure security is adequate in the face of potential cyberthreats as well.

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