Tallahassee, FL – The Florida Department of State said it was unable to verify part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report released Thursday that said a Russian intelligence agency gained access to at least one Florida county-government computer network.
“Upon learning of the new information released in the Mueller report, the department immediately reached out to the FBI to inquire which county may have been accessed, and they declined to share this information with us,” Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell said in a statement. “The department maintains that the 2016 elections in Florida were not hacked. The Florida Voter Registration System was and remains secure, and official results or vote tallies were not changed.”
The Mueller report said, “We understand the FBI believes that this operation enabled the GRU (a Russian intelligence agency) to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government.”
The issue of hacking became an issue in last year’s U.S. Senate race as then-U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson stood by a comment to Tallahassee reporters that “Russians are in Florida’s election records.”
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, then the state’s governor, repeatedly criticized the comment — questioning how Nelson got the information or to admit it wasn’t true.
Nelson, who ultimately lost to Scott in the November election, was the ranking member of the U.S. Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity. He told reporters Aug. 7 that local election officials could get help to secure their databases and records from Russian cyber-hacking, noting, “The Russians are in Florida’s election records” and that they had “penetrated” some voter-registration systems.
Revell on Thursday noted that the federal Department of Homeland Security notified the Department of State in 2017 that Florida had been unsuccessfully targeted by hackers in 2016.