Senator Claims Russians Penetrated Florida Voter Registration Systems

By: - August 9, 2018 12:00 am

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, in South Florida this week. He warned that Russians have successfully “penetrated” voter registration systems in some Florida counties. Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press

Russian operatives have successfully hacked some of Florida’s voter registration systems ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said this week.

“They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about,” the Florida Democrat told the Tampa Bay Times, referring to Russian hackers.

Nelson did not elaborate on which counties Russians targeted or when the attacks occurred, saying the information was classified. He said that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee encouraged him and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to inform local officials that “the Russians are in their records.”

A Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, Sara Sendek, said in a statement that agency officials “have not seen any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure.”

Election experts say Russia wouldn’t need to change votes to disrupt America’s electoral process. In primary elections earlier this year, for example, California and Maryland left nearly 200,000 people off voter rolls, leading to confusion and anger when those people tried to cast ballots.

The error factored into the low turnout in Maryland’s primary, state officials said. Only 1 in 10 affected voters cast a ballot, compared with the overall primary turnout of 1 in 4.

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Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros

Matt Vasilogambros covers voting rights, gun laws and Western climate policy for Stateline. He lives in San Diego, California.