TAMPA, Fla. — With the countdown underway to Primary Day, election security continues to be a huge concern.
- Sen. Bill Nelson says Russian operatives have penetrated state election system
- Nelson did not give specifics
- State officials say no evidence to support the claim
- Decision 2018
Despite assurances from election officials, some federal lawmakers are saying Florida's election system has already been compromised by Russian hackers.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday that Russian operatives have penetrated some of the state's election systems. State officials, however, said they have no information to support the claim.
"The Russians are in the records," Nelson said. "All they have to do if those election records are not protected is go in and start eliminating voters and you can imagine the chaos that would occur on Election Day."
Nelson, who is running for re-election, declined to identify which counties have been penetrated, saying it was classified.
"The threat is real and elections officials — at all levels — need to address the vulnerabilities."
Nelson, the ranking member of the cyber subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and his Republican colleague, Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is on the Senate intelligence committee, wrote a letter last month to all 67 of the county election supervisors in their state.
The Florida Department of State said it had received "zero information" from Nelson or his staff that supports the claims of Russian meddling — something national intelligence and homeland security officials have repeatedly warned was likely ahead of the midterms.
Authorities said if Nelson has specific information about threats, he should share it with state election officials.
The department said state and local election officials have taken "significant steps to ensure the security and integrity" of Florida elections.
Counties are using $1.9 million to purchase a network monitoring security system that provides automated alerts about threats, the department said. Moreover, counties are using $15.5 million in funding to make significant investments in election security prior to this year’s midterms.
Sara Sendek, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, issued a statement Wednesday evening saying: "While we are aware of Senator Nelson's recent statements, we have not seen any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure. That said, we don’t need to wait for a specific threat to be ready."