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The St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Office recount of the St. Lucie County Commission District 1 Democratic primary on Saturday, Aug, 22, 2020, between incumbent Chris Dzadovsky and retired Army Capt. Robin Bynoe. Around 55,000 ballots are being recounted for the race which goes to the state mandated recount because the vote difference is less than half a percent. (Photo: ERIC HASERT/TCPALM)

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — St. Lucie was one of two Florida counties to have its election registration systems hacked by Russian malware, media outlets reported Wednesday, citing excerpts from a new book on President Donald Trump.

CNN, which received an advance copy of journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage,” reported Woodward said the National Security Agency and the CIA had classified intelligence that the Russians placed malware on election-registration systems in two Florida counties:  St. Lucie and Washington.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast quickly called for St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker to brief him on the office’s security measures to ensure the election database is “not vulnerable to future attacks.” 

The news report notches up ongoing concerns about the integrity of the upcoming election, sown primarily by Trump through unsubstantiated claims about vote-by-mail.

It also thrusts St. Lucie County — one of four in Florida to vote for President Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 — further into the spotlight for its role in the last presidential election and for the next one in less than two months, although there are no reported concerns of votes that were changed in 2016.

The report notes, according to Woodward, there was no evidence the malware had been activated. 

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The St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Office recount of the St. Lucie County Commission District 1 Democratic primary on Saturday, Aug, 22, 2020, between incumbent Chris Dzadovsky and retired Army Capt. Robin Bynoe. Around 55,000 ballots are being recounted for the race which goes to the state mandated recount because the vote difference is less than half a percent. (Photo: ERIC HASERT/TCPALM)

The report was not confirmed by Walker. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday despite attempts by phone, text and email.

Election-registration systems generally involve voter rolls, but not individuals’ actual votes.

The physical votes cast in Florida are on paper ballots and when submitted, and at no point go through a system connected to the internet. Each county’s votes at the end of an election are submitted to the Florida Division of Elections through the internet. 

Last year — following initial reports from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller that  two Florida counties had been hacked — .Walker told TCPalm she was unaware of any attacks on computers that could have influenced voter registration here. 

“Nothing was impacted in St. Lucie County,” Walker said in April 2019.

The widely circulated report from Woodward’s book Wednesday was not denied by Florida elected officials, who were briefed on the classified information in 2019.  

Mast, whose district includes St. Lucie County, on Wednesday released a letter to Walker, addressing both his concerns with her office and with voters’ trust in the system. 

The Palm City Republican said he wants potentially affected voters to be notified when federal agencies identify an election-system breach, something he said he advocated for last year with his Florida colleagues in Congress. 

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Gertrude Walker (top), Supervisor of Elections for St. Lucie County, looks over an accepted ballot with canvassing board members County Judge Edmond Alonzo (left), and Kathy Townsend, as they sort through provisional ballots on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, at their office in Fort Pierce. Out of 122 provisional ballots, 42 were accepted by the canvassing board, according to Gertrude Walker. CQ: Gertrude Walker, Edmond Alonzo, Kathy Townsend 42 accepted (Photo: ERIC HASERT/TCPALM)

“Voters should not need to be in the position they are in now, speculating based on unconfirmed news reports,” Mast wrote to Walker. 

Mast, who was the lone Republican to vote for the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act or the SAFE Act in June, referenced the millions of dollars allocated to preserve the security of America’s elections, asking Walker how she has implemented use of those funds. 

“Color me more than a little concerned” over the media reports, tweeted Pam Keith, the Democratic candidate for Florida’s 18th Congressional District.

In a statement to TCPalm, she cited Mast’s voting record and his support for Trump, who has been repeatedly briefed by intelligence agencies about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“South Florida needs a congresswoman who will protect our elections, invest in cyber security and ensure that voters know their ballots will be counted the way they intended to cast them,” Keith said. 

More: A poll worker was fired after a complaint about political activity, then rehired. What happened?

Joshua Solomon is a politics reporter covering the Treasure Coast. You can reach him at 772-692-8935 or joshua.solomon@tcpalm.com. 

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