New report gives Florida an "F" for election security

Election officials call the report misleading

Is your vote safe? 

A new review of the security of America’s election infrastructure casts serious doubts over the voting process, the funding of security, and oversight.

And the report is especially critical of Florida.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) gave Florida a failing grade for election security, one of just five states in the country to receive an “F” in the report. 

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The report does not allege that the state’s election process has been compromised, but claims that its defenses should be seriously improved.

Some of the main charges by CAP are that Florida does not provide a paper record, doesn't do a good enough job safely ensuring that votes are cast as the voter intended, and knocks Florida for not mandating that voting machines meet national voting system guidelines.

Hillsborough County’s Supervisor of Elections disputed several of the report’s points today.

“I think this report is full of errors. I guess it’s full of opinions because it’s not full of facts,” said Craig Latimer to ABC Action News on Tuesday.

Latimer says he’s reviewed the report and says CAP appears to have been at times both mis-informed, and at other times confused. 

“We do have paper system in Florida, by statute, by state law. Yet they turn around and say we’re using DRE’s (direct-recording electronic),” said Latimer to reporter Adam Winer. “You’ve been in my office before, there’s no DRE in my office.”

A DRE is a voting machine that records votes instantly, which grew in popularity around the country after Florida’s infamous “hanging chad” fiasco in the 2000 elections made punch cards unpopular. 

But now many people have concerns about DRE machines because they don’t create paper receipts or other hard-copy records.

Latimer says their methods do have a paper record and don’t use DRE’s except in special circumstances; Latimer says the only DRE machines used in Hillsborough County are special ones for people who disabilities, and even those machines print out a paper ballot.

He also says Hillsborough's voting machines, and voting machines of most other counties, actually surpass federal guidelines.

Latimer went on to call CAP’s grades irresponsible and damaging.

“The fact of the matter is none of our elections were hacked,” Latimer said speaking of the 2016 elections in Florida in which hackers launched an unsuccessful phishing attack in an attempt to hack voting records.

“What did happen though is it undermined the confidence of the voters. And this report also undermines the confidence," says Latimer.

“If they would have stuck to the facts it would have been a lot better report,” added Latimer, who also serves on a national taskforce for election security.

As for cyber-security in particular, CAP gave Florida an “incomplete” because the state would not cooperate with CAP’s review. For that reason, Florida was actually given an “asterisk” to their failing grade: F*.

The office of Florida’s Secretary of State also calls the report “misleading,” adding that Florida Law prevents the Department to provide much of the information that was being sought by the Center for American Progress.

“It’s ironic that because we kept protected information secure, we earned a failing grade,” says a spokesperson for Florida’s Secretary of State, which oversees the election process in Florida.

“Our elections and voting system are secure. The Department of State will continue to work with all stakeholders to keep this important process safe and protected,” the spokesperson Mark Ard added.

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