Florida’s county elections departments will retain $2.3 million in unspent grant money aimed at stopping cyber-attacks on the state’s voting system, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday.
DeSantis announced the unspent money is left over from a $19 million federal grant given last year to combat potential attacks on the Florida’s voting system and was supposed to be returned to the state. It will be combined with $2.8 million in state funding currently budgeted.
The spending comes after it was disclosed last month that the FBI believes Russian hackers breached the voter information files of two of Florida’s 67 county election supervisor offices during the 2016 presidential election. Officials do not believe the vote tabulation system was compromised and say there is no indication last year’s state elections were hacked.
He and Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who oversees elections, vowed to identify and fix any problems before the March presidential primary.
“We are taking the issue seriously,” DeSantis said. “We have 67 different elections that are run and not every county has the same amount of resources so we want to be there to offer the support so the election is run smoothly.”
Lee will work with the county election supervisors to determine how the money is divided. DeSantis said if more money is needed, he would seek it from the Legislature.
“We must remain vigilant against constant and evolving threats,” Lee said. “The Department of State will ensure that no county stands alone against foreign threats to Florida’s elections.”
DeSantis said he hopes no vulnerabilities are found but if there are, he doesn’t think they should be publicly disclosed.
“We would be telegraphing to our adversaries, ‘Hey, this is where Florida is weakest,’” DeSantis said.