Florida lawmakers push DHS to notify voters, other officials of election system breaches

Florida lawmakers push DHS to notify voters, other officials of election system breaches
© Getty

A pair of House lawmakers from Florida have introduced new legislation that would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to notify voters and other parties of potential breaches to election systems.

Reps. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyBloomberg's congressional endorsers grow to three The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week MORE (D) and Mike Waltz (R) introduced their measure following revelations earlier this year that Russia infiltrated computer networks in two counties in the Sunshine State ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Members of the Florida congressional delegation blasted federal agencies in May for their lack of transparency about the cyberattacks, saying they only received an FBI briefing on the matter when former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE revealed in his report that the bureau was investigating a Moscow-led hack into "at least one" Florida county.

The FBI, which informed the Florida delegation that Russia had infiltrated a second county, has not permitted the members of Congress to reveal the names of which counties were targeted.


Murphy and Waltz have called that decision counterproductive, arguing that failing to provide notification about the attack on Florida's election systems has begun to erode public confidence in the state's elections.

“The FBI’s notification protocol is inadequate and unacceptable. Voters and state and local officials have the right to know when personal information has been compromised,” Waltz said in a statement, noting that voters in the two Florida counties "still don't know if Russians have accessed their personal data."

Under Murphy and Waltz's bill introduced Wednesday, DHS would have to notify state and local officials and certain members of Congress if federal authorities determine there is credible evidence that an unauthorized intrusion took place.

The legislation, dubbed the Achieving Lasting Electoral Reforms on Transparency and Security (ALERTS Act), would also require state and local officials to notify potentially affected voters.

“Just like consumers expect credit card or social media companies to disclose when their personal data has been compromised, voters also expect their government to notify them when their voting information is improperly accessed," Murphy said in a statement. “We need a notification standard for election hacks, which will increase public transparency on the vulnerabilities of our election infrastructure and help strengthen our democratic process."

A press release announcing the new legislation says that the text includes "a narrow exception to public alerts if federal officials determine notification would compromise intelligence sources or methods or cause harm to an ongoing criminal investigation."

Eighteen bipartisan members co-sponsored the legislation, including more than a dozen other lawmakers from Florida.

Mueller's investigation found that officers from Russia's military intelligence arm sent more than 120 spearphishing emails to Florida county elections officials, which ultimately enabled them to "gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government” heading into the 2016 election.

Russia used active measures to interfere in the 2016 election, including hacking operations and a sophisticated disinformation campaign on social media platforms, according to the Mueller report.

Murphy and Waltz, who both formerly served as national security specialists at the Pentagon, introduced the legislation on the same day the House and Senate are being separately briefed by senior administration officials on election security.