Rep. Al Lawson Urges State to Secure Election Systems & Improve Accessibility Ahead of 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05), with the entire Florida Democratic Congressional delegation, sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee pressing her to bolster election security and improve Floridians' access to vote for next year's election and requesting information about these efforts.
The 2020 primary election is fast approaching, and so now is the time to ensure our state is taking all necessary actions to harden our election defenses, guard against disinformation, and improve election administration generally,” the Members wrote."
In the letter, the Members of Congress highlight the threats to the state's election system. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report found that the Russian military intelligence agency gained access to at least one Florida county's network. In the 2018 election, Floridians experienced obstacles to cast their vote and have their vote count, including long lines, faulty voting equipment, unfair and arbitrary rejection of absentee ballots, and other instances.
As the Members state in the letter, "With approximately 13.5 million active registered voters in Florida, it is our shared responsibility to work together to put local supervisors of elections are in the position to correct the voting challenges that have occurred in the past two elections. Together, we must take steps to guard against these vulnerabilities before next year’s elections to make sure Floridians can express their will at the ballot box, unencumbered by outside forces."
The letter was led by Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-22) and signed by Rep. Al Lawson, Jr. (FL-05), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Darren Soto (FL-09), Val Demings (FL-10), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), and Donna E. Shalala (FL-27).
Click here to access a copy of the signed letter. The text of the letter is below.
Dear Secretary Lee:
We write to respectfully request information regarding the State of Florida’s efforts to address any vulnerabilities in the State’s election security in advance of the 2020 election cycle. The 2020 primary election is fast approaching, and so now is the time to ensure our state is taking all necessary actions to harden our election defenses, guard against disinformation, and improve election administration generally.
In the 2018 midterm elections, Florida voters experienced multiple obstacles to casting their votes and having their votes counted. Voters faced long lines at polling places and difficulty accessing polling locations inside gated communities, problems with faulty voting equipment, unfair and arbitrary rejections of absentee ballots, difficulty accessing voting materials in their preferred language, intimidating robocalls, confusing ballot design, and delayed recounts.
As you are aware, the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III, found that the Russian military intelligence agency (GRU) was able to “gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government.” Subsequently, members of the Florida congressional delegation requested a briefing from federal law enforcement agencies and were informed that the networks of at least two Florida counties had been compromised. Most recently, a report by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee suggests that as many as four Florida counties may have been successfully attacked.
In the wake of Russia’s attacks, the Department of Homeland Security has increased its outreach to state and local officials to bolster protections of future elections. We invite you to take full advantage of the May 2019 Election Infrastructure Security Resource Guide published by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to assist with accessing federal resources and offer to assist state and local agencies in any way that we can to facilitate cooperation with the federal government.
We appreciate the State’s efforts to distribute $2.3 million in unspent funding out of the total of $14.4 million in 2018 funding pursuant to the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in order to better secure our elections. We also appreciate efforts to implement network monitoring sensors to alert officials to intrusions inside our election infrastructure. We must continue to work closely together to prepare for the 2020 elections and would greatly appreciate continued updates regarding the use of HAVA funds and implementation of new security measures.
The 2020 primary and general elections are expected to see record-breaking voter turnout. In 2018, approximately 55 percent of eligible voters—more than 8.3 million Floridians—voted. With approximately 13.5 million active registered voters in Florida, it is our shared responsibility to work together to put local supervisors of elections are in the position to correct the voting challenges that have occurred in the past two elections. Together, we must take steps to guard against these vulnerabilities before next year’s elections to make sure Floridians can express their will at the ballot box, unencumbered by outside forces.
To the extent additional federal support in necessary, we stand ready to help. To that end, we request the following information:
1. Please describe the State’s efforts to improve election security since the 2016 election. Please also provide information on the State’s mechanisms for oversight of county supervisors of elections for security matters.
2. Please describe what steps Florida has taken to address the threat of foreign disinformation, including any engagement or information-sharing relationships with any social media platforms. Additionally, what additional federal assistance, best practices and/or legislative remedies would assist Florida in deterring disinformation in our elections in advance of the 2020 election?
3. Since the 2016 elections, what specific steps has Florida taken to ensure that any new systems related to election management will properly process and count ballots in the 2020 primary and general elections?
4. Since the 2016 election, what specific steps has Florida taken to make it easier for Floridians to vote?
5. Will any new auditing procedures be implemented to verify the accuracy of machine tabulations before the 2020 elections?
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you and we thank you for your attention to this request.