Election security one focus of governor’s budget proposal

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A high priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ spending proposal for next year is increasing election security. The request comes after Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee issued a grave warning of ongoing threats.

“Every single day domestic actors and foreign actors attempt to penetrate our Department of State networks,” Lee said in October.

DeSantis took the issue seriously in his proposed 2020 budget and includes items that officials have requested for years.

“We’re doing $6.6 million for elections, cybersecurity enhancements,” DeSantis said.

Of that spending, $1.3 million would pay for 10 cybersecurity experts who would not only help at the state level, but also advise local election supervisors on how to bolster their defenses.

“Our firewalls are being hit all the time," Leon Supervisor Mark Earley said. “But there’s other threats, too, and so getting a better understanding of those, being able to develop responses requires a great level of expertise.”

Another $1.4 million would implement a system known as the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, which will help ensure the state’s registration database is up to date and accurate.

Earley said while he appreciates the gesture from the DeSantis and getting money distributed in a timely manner will be pivotal, especially with the 2020 election cycle just around the corner.

"In 2018 there was money allocated at the federal level and we were right in the middle of the summer, very close to August when we actually had access to those funds, and that was very difficult to get that implemented in time to have much of an impact,” Earley said.

Since the 2018 election, Florida has committed about $18 million for election security enhancements.

Since the 2018 election, Florida has committed about $18 million for election security enhancements.

DeSantis’ budget proposal is only a request and the Legislature must approve the final spending plan during its session that begins in January.