Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) announced this week that Russian hackers have breached Florida’s election systems and “now have free reign to move about.” The Department of Homeland Security, however, said that it has seen no evidence to support Nelson’s assertions.
What did Sen. Nelson say?
“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 Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday. “They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about.”
Nelson said that Russian hackers were in Florida’s election system “right now” and that he and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) had warned state election officials that “the Russians are in the records, and all they have to do, if those election records are not protected, is to go in and start eliminating registered voters, and you could imagine the chaos that would occur on election day when the voters get to the polls and they say ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Smith. I’m sorry, Mr. Jones. You’re not registered.’”
The day before, he mentioned something similar but had refused to clarify, saying simply “that’s classified,” the Times reported.
What did Homeland Security say?
On July 2, Nelson and Rubio sent a letter to Florida’s secretary of state and 67 supervisors of elections, encouraging them to work with the Department of Homeland Security to combat any attempts at Russian election interference. Rubio is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
However, Homeland Security spokeswoman Sara Sendek said that the department was not aware of any new breaches of Florida’s elections, according to The Hill.
“While we are aware of Senator Nelson’s recent statements, we have not seen any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure,” Sendek said, adding:
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.
The Tampa Bay Times questioned Nelson’s office about the DHS statement and received a response that said bluntly: “The senator stands by his statement.”
TheBlaze reached out to both Rubio and Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) about the report. Both senators’ offices declined to comment on Nelson’s claims.
Rubio’s office referred TheBlaze to the letter he sent with Nelson in July and noted that Rubio had also met with local election supervisors from counties across Florida back in May to warn them about potential Russian cyber attacks.
TheBlaze also reached out to Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), but the senator’s office has not responded.
Nelson is up for re-election in November and is being challenged by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Real Clear Politics currently considers the race to be a toss-up.