Russian operatives have broken into the voter registration systems of several counties in Florida ahead of the midterm elections, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson warned Wednesday.
“They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about,” Nelson, a Democratic Senator facing re-election in November, told the Tampa Bay Times.
“We were requested by the chairman and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee to let supervisors of election in Florida know that the Russians are in their records,” said Nelson, who is a member of the Armed Services subcommittee on cybersecurity.
Last month, Nelson and fellow Florida Senator Marco Rubio sent a joint letter to state election officials urging them to take advantage of security resources offered by the Department of Homeland Security.
“County election boards should not be expected to stand alone against a hostile foreign government,” the letter said. “DHS will follow your lead and meet your needs with a tailored set of options. We encourage you in the strongest terms to take advantage of those resources.”
A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State told the Times it had “received zero information from Sen. Nelson or his staff that supports his claims… If Sen. Nelson has specific information about threats to our elections, he should share it with election officials in Florida.”
The Times, however, noted that two Florida County officials said that they had heard of accounts similar to Nelson’s claims when they held a private meeting with Rubio in May. Florida faces a primary election on August 28.
Last month, a Microsoft executive said at a security conference that a group of hackers believed to be tied to Russia’s military launched spearfishing campaigns against at least three candidates running for election in the 2018 midterms.