1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Florida officials wanted an elections cybersecurity team. Lawmakers said no.

Creating the five-person team would have cost less than $500,000.
House Speaker Jose Oliva, R- Miami Lakes and Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton.
House Speaker Jose Oliva, R- Miami Lakes and Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton.
Published May 22, 2019
Updated May 23, 2019

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he wants state officials to “review” the state’s elections systems after news that two county elections offices were hacked in 2016.

But for the last two years, Florida’s secretaries of state have asked for that help — only to be turned down twice by state lawmakers.

Last year, then-Secretary of State Ken Detzner asked the Legislature for $488,000 to create a full-time elections cybersecurity team with five people, according to the department.

Even though it was a measly amount in the scope of their $88.7 billion budget, lawmakers refused, and the department instead hired five cybersecurity contractors to help local supervisors in last year’s election.

This year, Secretary of State Laurel Lee asked lawmakers for $1.5 million to keep those cybersecurity contractors, and lawmakers again refused.

Thankfully, all were not lost.

“The Department still has two cyber navigators available to supervisors and they will continue to be available through 2020,” Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell said in an email.

On Wednesday, DeSantis asked Lee to make it her “top priority" to “immediately initiate a review of the security, particularly the cybersecurity” of elections systems across the state’s 67 counties.

“Public faith in our elections is the bedrock of our democracy and we must do everything within our power to preserve the integrity of our elections systems,” DeSantis said in a statement. “While the breaches did not compromise the outcome of the 2016 election, nonetheless, they highlight the importance of protecting the security of our elections system.”

Lee, who’s meeting with the state’s elections supervisors in Daytona this week, called it her “number one priority” in a statement.

The Legislature did spend $1.9 million last year on software that detects cyber threats in each county, and the governor’s office said in a statement that Florida had more of those sensors than any other state.

In a news conference earlier this month, DeSantis told reporters that federal officials he met with were “laudatory about Florida’s efforts to be ahead of the curve” in relation to the 2020 election. Still, DeSantis said he believed risks to Florida elections remained.

“We’ve done a lot, we’re leading the nation in some of the things that we’re doing,” DeSantis said during the May 14 news conference. “I think we’re going to be able to get the job done. And if we’re not as we get into the fall and winter, we’ll be able to seek additional help at that time.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has been more pessimistic about Florida’s readiness to combat malfeasance in the 2020 election.

“I have repeatedly voiced concerns about overconfidence of some Florida elections officials,” Rubio tweeted in April.


  1. Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the ​U.S. Conference of Mayors' Winter Meeting, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    It’s also the first visit by any Democratic contender this year
  2. Jimmy Patronis had been appointed to the state’s Public Service Commission by Gov. Scott.
    FDLE cited a ‘potential conflict,’ Leon County State Attorney Jack Campbell said.
  3. Gov. Ron DeSantis. [STEVE CANNON  |  AP]
    Florida students will read more classical literature and learn math differently, according to summary documents.
  4. Florida House Speaker José Oliva made hospital deregulation one of his top priorities. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
    Speaker José Oliva slammed pharmaceutical companies in his opening day speech, but a bill to place $100 caps on co-payments for insulin will not pass this year. In fact, it won’t even get a hearing.
  5. The Florida Supreme Court, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Judge Renatha Francis has not been a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years.
  6. State Rep. Adam Hattersley, D-Riverview, speaks before volunteers with the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action outside the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. [[LAWRENCE MOWER | Tampa Bay Times]]
    Like it has since the Parkland massacre, the gun debate is growing fierce in Tallahassee. But there are some significant changes this year.
  7. West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James talks with his Director of Communications Kathleen Walter while going over the state of the city address in his office at the City of West Palm Beach municipal building in West Palm Beach, Florida on Wednesday, January 15, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James leads a city about the same size as Buttigieg’s South Bend. Here’s what his day looks like. Is this presidential experience?
  8. The Florida Supreme Court, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    “Death is indeed different,” wrote the lone dissenting justice. “This Court has taken a giant step backward."
  9. State Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, presents legislation to create a new chapter of Florida law dedicated to parents' rights when dealing with government and other agencies, during a committee meeting Jan. 23, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    Parents have been marginalized by bureaucracy, and need to be empowered in law, sponsor Rep. Erin Grall says.
  10. Wichita State Shockers center Jaime Echenique (21) and USF Bulls guard David Collins (0) battle for the loose ball during the second half at the Yuengling Center in Tampa on Tuesday. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Lawmakers may require public colleges and universities to ask permission before selling naming rights.