72ºF

New Woodward book raises Florida election security concerns

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A soon to be published book by author Bob Woodward, who found fame after reporting on the Watergate scandal, named St. Lucie as the second Florida county that was supposedly hacked by Russians in 2016.

Washington County in the Panhandle was previously identified.

The book, “Rage,” is re-igniting concerns over election security in Florida.

In May 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed that two counties had been penetrated in 2016 but said he was sworn to secrecy.

“I’m not allowed to name the counties. I signed a disclosure agreement,” said DeSantis.

Nearly six months later, Secretary of State Laurel Lee, the U.S. Attorney, the FBI and others went public with their intent to protect and secure.

“We are all here to make clear that each of us will use those 368 days to safeguard our election process,” said U.S. Attorney for Florida’s Northern District Lawrence Keefe in November 2019.

Florida has spent tens of millions beefing up security since the last election.

Every county has been audited and there are now five full-time cyber specialists working for the state.

“There have been problems that have been identified, and there’s been a response to that,” said Mark Earley, Election Supervisor for Leon County.

Earley is also the cybersecurity chair for Florida’s 67 elections supervisors.

He said 2016 was a wake-up call.

“It brought this to our awareness. It showed the need for partnerships, for more funding, and cooperation from county to county. Sharing resources, especially with those counties that have less funding and less expertise,” said Earley.

Earley also said he has not been briefed on whether St. Lucie was indeed the other hacked county.

“It’s complete news to me,” said Earley.

The county said it was never told, to which Earley replied any supervisor that may have been compromised deserves to know.

While the election is just under two months away, mail ballots go out in two weeks, on Sept. 24.

So far, just over 2.6 million have been requested.

NAACP, Retired Americans push mail voting

The Florida Alliance of Retired Americans and the NAACP participated in a statewide zoom meeting Thursday and urged people to vote by mail.

The campaign hopes to let people know vote by mail is safe in Florida, where voters must request ballots ahead of time.

Adner Marcelin with the NAACP said it’s also important to track your mail ballot after returning it.

“We’re fortunate to have a system when your ballot is mailed out. When it’s received, and when it’s tabulated so you can make sure your ballot is there. But if you notice on election day that your ballot still has not been counted, and you sent it in early. It gives you enough time to go to the Supervisor of Elections office and make sure you alert them to the problem and correct your ballot if anything needs to be done with that,” said Marcelin.

So far, just over 2.6 million mail ballots have been requested statewide.