Florida Senator Bill Nelson Claims Russians Have Penetrated Some of the State’s Voter Registration Systems

Sen. Bill Nelson on the Senate floor on May 23, 2018, criticizing the state of Florida's response to election security concerns.
Sen. Bill Nelson on the Senate floor on May 23, 2018, criticizing the state of Florida’s response to election security concerns.

Russian operatives have “penetrated” some of Florida’s voter registration systems ahead of the 2018 midterms, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday, adding new urgency to concerns about hacking.

The state, however, said it has received “zero information” supporting his claim.

“They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about,” Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times before a campaign event in Tampa. He said something similar a day earlier in Tallahassee but declined to elaborate.

“That’s classified,” the Democrat said Tuesday.

He is facing a re-election challenge in November from Gov. Rick Scott, whose administration said it has no knowledge of the allegations made by Nelson.

Nelson and Florida’s other senator, Republican Marco Rubio, wrote a July 2 letter to the 67 county election supervisors about potential threats. But that letter lacked the specificity Nelson laid out.

“County election boards should not be expected to stand alone against a hostile foreign government,” the lawmakers wrote in recommending “a wide range of services” from the Department of Homeland Security.

“We were requested by the chairman and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee to let the supervisors of election in Florida know that the Russians are in their records,” Nelson told the Timeson Wednesday. (audio below) He noted he is a member of the Armed Services subcommittee on cybersecurity.

“The Florida Department of State has received zero information from Senator Nelson or his staff that support his claims,” agency spokeswoman Sarah Revell said in a statement. “Additionally, the Department has received no information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that corroborates Senator Nelson’s statement and we have no evidence to support these claims.

“If Senator Nelson has specific information about threats to our elections, he should share it with election officials in Florida.”

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SOURCE: Alex Leary, Steve Bousquet, and Kirby Wilson 
Tampa Bay Times