Florida Officials Contradict Senator Bill Nelson’s Claim That Russians Successfully Infiltrated Voting Systems

Florida Senator Bill Nelson (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Florida election officials said Thursday there is no evidence to corroborate Senator Bill Nelson’s(D., Fla.) claim that Russian agents successfully infiltrated the state’s voting systems.

“We have had absolutely no information regarding that” Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes told the Sun Sentinel in reference to Nelson’s Wednesday claim of Russian election hacking. “We have not seen anything with our system that something strange is going on.”

“They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about,” Nelson, the ranking member of the cyber subcommittee of the Senate Armed Service Committee, told the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday. “The threat is real and elections officials — at all levels — need to address the vulnerabilities.”

The Florida State Department similarly denied having any information to corroborate Nelson’s claim and urged the lawmaker to share any exclusive information he might be privy to.

“Additionally, the department has received no information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that corroborates Sen. Nelson’s statement and we have no evidence to support these claims,” the Florida Department of State said in a statement. “If Sen. Nelson has specific information about threats to our elections, he should share it with election officials in Florida.”

Nelson has a history of relaying false information in the wake of shootings.

Citing a Democratic state lawmaker, Nelson asserted that “assault weapons” were used in an April shooting that claimed two lives in Liberty City, Fla. in a tweet sent roughly five hours after the tragedy occurred. Miami police corrected the record the following day, informing the public that handguns were used.

Nelson, a staunch gun control advocate, similarly spread false information following the Parkland shooting that claimed 17 lives in February.

Hours after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Nelson took to the major cable news networks to inform viewers that the shooter, 17-year-old Nikolas Cruz, used a gas mask and smoke grenades, based on information he said was provided by the FBI. Nelson later retracted the claims, insisting the FBI mistook dust and debris for smoke and Cruz’s ski mask for a gas mask.

“I was told this by the FBI…. The [Broward] Sheriff’s Department, days later when I went to the school, corrected it,” Nelson said. “They said the FBI’s mistake was that they saw… with the smoke and they assumed it was a gas mask, as it turned out it was a ski mask.”

The Florida lawmaker, who has called for an assault weapons ban, was retweeted by student gun control advocates from Stoneman Douglas, who collectively reached hundreds of thousands of followers. Asked Sunday why he communicated a falsehood, Nelson claimed he was simply relaying information given to him by the state lawmaker and fellow Democrat.

“That was from Kionne. That was Kionne’s impression,” Nelson said, according to the Miami Herald. “It was information from somebody right on the scene and I think people are entitled to that information.”

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