On Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Russian hackers had penetrated voter databases in two counties in his state, The Associated Press reported. But though DeSantis said on Tuesday that there was no indication the Russians had manipulated the voter data — or affected the election results in any way — FBI investigators now say they are not sure what happened.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Florida Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represents part of Miami and South Florida, said that the FBI had told her “they couldn’t say with certainty [Russians] did not manipulate data,” according to an Orlando Sentinel report.
As far back as June of 2017, investigators revealed that Russian hacking of state voter databases was far wider than previously believed, according to a Bloomberg News report. The attacks extended far beyond Florida, with Russian cyber-spies gaining access to voter data in at least 39 states, according to the Bloomberg report. The report also revealed that the Russians, “tried to delete or alter voter data” in Illinois, and that Russian hackers “accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day.”
In Florida, Donald Trump ended up defeating Hillary Clinton by a slim 1.3 percentage point margin, per Politico data, allowing him to claim all 29 crucial Electoral College votes in the state.
In Florida, however, the FBI has refused to reveal the two counties it now says were hacked by Russian agents, and DeSantis said that he has signed a non-disclosure agreement preventing him from speaking further on the matter, according to The Miami Herald, which said that its reporters contacted all 67 Florida counties, but could not determine which two were the subjects of the FBI investigation.
In his report of findings concerning his own Russia investigation, available via The New York Times, special counsel Robert Mueller reported that “at least one Florida county government” was penetrated by Russian hackers. Mueller also reported that Russians hacked “a voting technology company that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls, and installed malware on the company network.”
Whether the Russian attacks on the two Florida counties altered the result of the state’s election results remains uncertain. However, Florida’s 29 electoral votes would have brought Clinton’s total to 261, and reduced Trump’s Electoral College votes to 277, according to the election data site 270ToWin.com.
That means altered results in one more state — such as Illinois where, as Bloomberg reported, investigators claim Russians attempted to change voter data, and which carries 20 electoral votes — would have made the difference between a Clinton victory or, as happened, a Trump win.