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Florida gets its $19.2 million in federal election security money

The much-anticipated grant will help counties fortify voting systems against cyber-threats.

The check arrived. Florida got its $19.2 million share of a pot of new election security money Thursday.

Gov. Rick Scott's chief elections officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, now must get the Legislature's OK to distribute the money to 67 county elections supervisors, with the start of voting by mail for the primary less than two months away.

That will likely require a vote by the Joint Legislative Budget Commission.

"The department has received the federal funds and we will work quickly with the Florida Legislature to provide funding to supervisors of elections as well as bolster state efforts to enhance the security and integrity of our elections," said Detzner's spokeswoman, Sarah Revell.

How the state sought and got the money is a circuitous tale, chronicled by the Times/Herald, that required the intervention of Scott and included Sen. Marco Rubio, the federal Election Assistance Commission and county supervisors.

On May 17, counties pleaded with the state to apply for the money. On May 23, at a statewide elections conference, Detzner said the money would not be available this election, which prompted Scott to insist that the state quickly seek the money, which it did.

The state filed its application two months after the money was available, and the request was approved in one day.

The feds say that to date, 26 states have requested 55 percent of the total money available of $380 million.

Florida, the nation's largest swing state, is viewed as a likely target of cyber attacks by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and by state political leaders. Within two years, the state must provide a 5 percent match of the federal money, an amount slightly less than $1 million.

Detzner's agency also will hire five new cyber-security specialists for the upcoming election. Scott authorized the positions after the Legislature rejected his request that they be included in the next state budget.