Florida’s chief elections official, Ken Detzner, says counties desperately waiting for a new pot of federal money to fight cyber-threats to voting systems won’t be getting it before the election.
“The answer is no, and the reason is, we have to go to the Legislature to get approval,” Detzner says. “We don’t have the authority to spend that money without legislative approval. We have to submit a budget and it has to be a thoughtful budget that looks at the short-term and long-term needs.”
President Donald J. Trump signed a spending bill on March 23 that included $380 million for states to harden their election systems against the ongoing threats of cyber-attacks before the 2018 election.
The program is being run by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission,which said on March 29: “The EAC is releasing this money quickly so that the grants can have an immediate impact, even utilized possibly in the 2018 election cycle.”
Florida’s share of the pot is $19.2 million, to be divided among the state and 67 counties. Two months after the money was appropriated, Florida has not yet filed all of the required paperwork.
“We’ve been working on it since we first got the call,” Detzner said.
Florida cannot spend new federal money without legislative approval, but that’s often a perfunctory step by a panel of lawmakers known as the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, chaired by Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, the incoming House speaker.