As valuable as Florida may be as the nation’s largest swing state and as airtight as its elections were in 2018, there is no evidence that hackers penetrated the Sunshine State’s voting systems in 2018, the state’s new elections chief Mike Ertel told a House subcommittee Thursday.

“In Florida, we spend millions of dollars on cybersecurity and ensuring that our system was not penetrated by any external forces. And to our knowledge, there have not been any penetrations of the system. Which is amazing,” Ertel told the Florida House Oversight, Transparency and Public Management Subcommittee Thursday morning.

Earlier this month Gov. Ron DeSantis elevated Ertel to Florida Secretary of State from the position of the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections. There, he was among the more outspoken of county supervisors of elections in talking about and defending the security and integrity of elections systems.

He talked about building a “cyber moat” around Seminole elections data.

He told the committee that the stakes probably are higher in Florida than in any other state heading toward the next presidential election, considering the issues of cybersecurity breaches in the 2016 election.

“When you consider, and Chairman [Scott] Plakon talked a minute ago about Florida being the largest swing state, we are the swing state. Make no mistake about it; with the number of electoral votes we have. And the direction we can go from one election to another” Ertel said. “We’ve learned this in November, with the recounts, how tight this state is. We are the swing state.”

“And so if anyone is going to target a state for a presidential election, we fully recognize we need to defend against that. And while it didn’t happen in 2018, just because your quarterback hasn’t been sacked doesn’t mean you bench your left tackle. What you do is make sure you continue to protect that quarterback, continue to protect that system. And that’s what we’re going to do in 2019 and 2020 and beyond.”

In other news, Ertel said the flurry of voting and elections lawsuits the state saw last year, at least 13, has been narrowed to five active cases.

They cover on-campus early voting sites, ballot design having to do with the ordering of candidates, availability of ballots in Spanish in some locations, voter signature matching, and procedures to preserve ballot images.

He vowed to defend Florida law in each case, to assure adherence to Flordia law and provide consistency in elections management.

But Ertel declined to go into much detail on those cases, as the lawsuits are pending.

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