TALLAHASSEE — Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner wants clarification from the U.S. Senate on Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s comments to reporters that Russians have “penetrated” some voter-registration systems.
Detzner sent a letter Thursday to Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., requesting that federal officials share with his agency any “relevant, classified information about current and potential threats.”
“Additionally, if you, Senator Nelson or any federal agency, government official or elected official has information that verifies that ‘the Russians are in Florida’s elections records,’ I urge immediate transparency and cooperation in sharing that information so that we can take action to protect our elections,” Detzner wrote.
Detzner said he’s been advised by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that they had no information backing Nelson’s claim.
On Tuesday, Nelson told reporters in Tallahassee that local election officials could get help to secure their databases and records from Russian cyber-hacking.
“The Russians are in Florida’s election records,” said Nelson, whose comments came amid his re-election battle with Detzner’s boss, Gov. Rick Scott.
When pressed on the issue of a local election-systems breach, Nelson, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, said the information remained “classified.”
The media questions about election security were raised as a follow to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s recent comments that county election systems remain vulnerable to such hacking.
Rubio has been pressing Congress to support the “Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act of 2018,” the Deter Act, which uses the threat of sanctions to dissuade foreign election meddling.
On July 19, state legislators accepted $19.2 million from the federal government to further secure voting systems that were targeted by Russian hackers in 2016.
Detzner has described hackers’ failure to breach election systems in 2016 as a “success story” for Florida.
“No breaches occurred in the state data system, and the Florida voter- registration system was secure, is secure, and will remain secure during the 2018 election,” Detzner told a legislative panel on July 19.
In his letter Thursday, Detzner said he was “very concerned” by Nelson’s comments.
“Let me be very clear, this is a very serious charge made in a public setting without any evidence, details or any prior communication to state or local election officials in Florida,” Detzner wrote.