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Which 2 Florida counties were hacked in the 2016 election?

David Smiley, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI -- Florida's governor is facing calls to name the two local election offices he says were hacked ahead of the 2016 election. But based on his own comments, he's not the only one in Florida choosing to keep that information secret.

In the weeks since Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election revealed that hacking efforts by Russian intelligence outfit GRU were in fact successful in "at least one" Florida county despite years of public information to the contrary, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times have contacted each of the state's 67 election supervisors to ask whether their office had been hacked.

And all but a handful of Florida's election supervisors have said in interviews or in public statements that they have no reason to believe their offices were involved -- even though the FBI told Gov. Ron DeSantis recently that it notified the victims years ago.

"We have not been told we are (among the hacked counties)," Assistant Suwanee Elections Supervisor Jennifer Kinsey said Wednesday. "We're kind of wondering who it is, too."

Election offices in Gadsden and Hardee counties either declined to comment or failed to respond to requests for information, although there's no information to suggest that either of those two counties were hacked.

Sumter County Supervisor Bill Keen said in an interview Wednesday morning that he has no reason to believe his office was hacked, but an election coordinator in his office later responded to an email seeking comment by saying information about hacking was exempt from disclosure because "our answers could either directly or indirectly allow yourself or others, including nation states trying to do harm to our elections process, to ascertain details harmful to national security. ... "

 

At least 11 election offices received malware-laced emails from hackers. But officials in Florida's largest counties say they have no reason to believe they were hacked.

The widespread denials continue to cloud an already muddy controversy that refuses to fade even as Florida's senior-most politicians assert that no election data was manipulated by the hackers who tricked their way into local registration databases. They also undercut trust in Florida's election security, given that only a few weeks ago the same people who are now assuring that successful hacking attempts had no consequence on the 2016 election were insisting that, in fact, those hacking attempts had all failed.

"It is absolutely shameful and ridiculous that the federal government will not tell the citizens of the state of Florida and the public officials all they know about the hack," said Ion Sancho, a former Leon County election supervisor who went public in September 2016 with the details of a private conference call between election officials, Homeland Security and the FBI on hacking attempts. "Certainly, the Russian GRU, they already know which counties they've penetrated. The only ones that are being kept in the dark are the citizens, the voters themselves."

Until Tuesday, and even after the release of Mueller's report, all indications were that the FBI and Homeland Security had consistently told state and local officials that hacking threats in 2016 were widespread but unsuccessful.

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