National Security

Florida questions Senate chairman over claim that Russians have ‘penetrated’ election systems


Florida officials are requesting answers from the Senate Intelligence Committee after Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) claimed this week that the state’s election systems had been “penetrated” by Russian hackers ahead of the 2018 midterms.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) sent a letter Thursday to committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) requesting information about remarks Nelson made the previous day in which he claimed that hackers had “already penetrated certain counties in the state.”

“They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about,” Nelson had said during an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.


Detzner responded Thursday, writing in a letter reported by the Times that Nelson had made the comments “without any evidence or details to support such a claim.” The secretary of State requested any information from the Senate panel that Nelson characterized as “classified.”

“[T]his 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.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Wednesday that the agency had not noticed any activity such as Nelson had described.

“While we are aware of Senator Nelson’s recent statements, we have not seen any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure,” DHS spokeswoman Sara Sendek said.

“We know that in 2016 Russian government cyber actors sought access to U.S. election infrastructure as part of a multifaceted operation directed at the U.S. elections. We continue to assess Russian actors were not able to access vote tallying systems, though we consider all 50 states to have been potential targets,” she added.

When asked to explain his remarks on Russia on Wednesday, Nelson pointed to a joint statement made with fellow Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) urging local election officials to take steps to secure vulnerabilities in election procedures and software.

“As Sen. Rubio and I wrote in our letter to the 67 county supervisors of elections, the threat is real and elections officials – at all levels – need to address the vulnerabilities,” he said.

Tags Bill Nelson Election Security Florida Marco Rubio Richard Burr secretary of State Senate Intelligence Committee

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