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Florida election officials believe they're better prepared post-2016 voter hack

'No county will stand alone'
Posted at 7:01 PM, Nov 01, 2019
and last updated 2020-03-16 20:24:59-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- We’re better than in 2016. That’s the word from Florida officials as they prepared for Election Day 2020 and worked to protect against foreign interference.

“We will use every one of those 368 days to safeguard our election process,” said Florida’s Northern District US Attorney Lawrence Keefe during a news conference, Friday. “We will share information with one another and we will keep you informed.”

Keefe was joined by Florida's other US attorneys, the FBI, and election officials to give the public a confidence boost on current protection measures. The group announced what they called an “unprecedented” effort to work together.

“We believe it represents a positive national model for election security,” Keefe said. “We want the people of Florida to know their government— their whole government— local, state, and federal levels will maintain the integrity of their election system.”

Their announcement came in the wake of the 2016 hack in which voter data from two, still unnamed Florida counties, was obtained by foreign agents. Though voting results weren’t manipulated, the breach rattled Florida voters like Camiel Berry.

“If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” she said. “I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but, I’m not surprised and I don’t have high expectation a whole lot will change.”

Foreign threats are only growing, FBI agents warned. Federal authorities identified China and Russia as two of the nation’s biggest concerns. FBI Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas warned technology to undermine elections is constantly evolving.

“As we stand here today counties across the globe are deploying efforts to strengthen themselves and weaken the United States,” said Rojas. “They see our elections as an opportunity to challenge America’s confidence and our institutions and values.”

Florida’s Secretary of State Laurel Lee said the effort to fight back was keeping pace. Lee touted a recent state review of current election security measures, ordered by the governor, aimed at identifying and filling gaps. Plus— she said more than $18 million had been set aside for upgrades and training, since last year.

“Those of us who stand here before you are committed to working together every day between now and 2020 to give you the most secure, efficient and reliable election possible,” Lee said. “No county will stand alone against a foreign adversary.”

Some other protections coming in Florida's future, a cybersecurity bureau and enrollment in ERIC. It's a national program aimed at clearing state voter rolls of duplicated or old records.

Perhaps it all would be enough to give peace of mind to worried voters. Berry, however, remained on the fence.

“That would be great,” she said. “Am I expecting that? Not honestly.”