Tampa Bay elections supervisors say they weren’t hacked by Russians


Six elections officials in the Tampa Bay area say they have not been informed by any federal authorities that their counties were hacked. 

Elections supervisors in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Sarasota and Manatee counties all confirmed to Politics On Your Side that they have not, to their knowledge, been hacked.

The revelation that Russians hacked not one but two Florida counties’ voter registration systems came Tuesday from Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had been briefed by FBI officials last week.

DeSantis said the FBI assured him no votes were changed, and the systems hacked had voter registration information but not votes.

But Floridians were actually warned last year during the 2018 campaign by then-Senator Bill Nelson.

“They have already penetrated certain counties in the state,” Nelson said at a campaign event in Tampa in mid-August. “They now have free reign to move about.”

Nelson’s opponent, then-Gov. Rick Scott, quickly attacked Nelson over the claim just days later.

“This is a very serious charge for which Bill Nelson has provided no proof,” said Scott. “This cannot be overlooked. Either Bill Nelson knows of crucial info that federal government is witholding from Florida election officials, or he’s simply making things up.”

Scott went on to win the election by 10,033 votes, a margin of 0.13 percent.

The Mueller Report confirmed a Florida county was hacked. Politics On Your Side challenged now-Senator Scott last week whether Nelson was vindicated in his claim.

“I asked him to put out more information, and he didn’t,” Scott replied. “So I asked FBI and DHS, and they said there wasn’t any. So I guess we’ll find out what the facts are.”

On Thursday, Sen. Scott said the FBI provided him with no evidence that Russians were in Florida’s election system in 2018 when he met with FBI officials on Wednesday.

Hillsborough County elections supervisor Craig Latimer said the systems that were hacked and the ones that tabulate votes are not at all connected.

“The tabulation system in Florida by law is a stand-alone, airgap system,” said Latimer. “It’s not connected to my system. So to try and infiltrate that, I don’t know how you would do that.

“But I’m not inviting anyone to do that,” he added.

Latimer said voters should be confident going into 2020.

“I have total confidence in the election process,” Latimer said, “and how we do public logic and accuracy tests to determine that the machines are counting correctly. And then after the election, using the audit method to make sure once again that the machine’s counted correctly. So yes, I have a lot of confidence in it.”

CORRECTION: This story initially said the Mueller Report confirmed Nelson’s claim that hacking occurred in 2018–it confirmed there was hacking in 2016.

Watch Tampa Bay’s weekly local political show, Politics On Your Side with host Evan Donovan, every Sunday morning at 9:30 on WFLA News Channel 8, right before Meet the Press.

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