BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — Maryland officials are investigating a Russian investor’s ties to election software that maintains part of the state’s voter registration system.
With just four months to go before the general election, it’s a development that has state leaders concerned.
“We’re going to make certain, the governor, and I speak for myself and everybody involved in government that nothing untoward happens as a result of this action,” Senate President Thomas Mike Miller said.
Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch said in a joint statement Friday that the state is investigating a Russian oligarch’s ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s investment in ByteGrid LLC, a software company that holds some of Maryland’s voter data — specifically, voter registration, candidacy, election management and election night results.
The FBI alerted state officials and Gov. Larry Hogan that back in 2015, the Russian investor bought the software company the state contracts without their knowledge.
“There’s a lot of information we still need to get, but we wanted to get it out to you first and foremost,” Busch said.
The FBI did not indicate that any information had been compromised, but Miller and Busch said they’ve reached out to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to investigate.
Miller and Busch released the following statement, in part:
“While the FBI did not indicate that there was a breach, we were concerned enough to ask Attorney General Frosh to review the existing contractual obligation of the State, as well as asked for a review of the system to ensure there have been no breaches. We have also instructed the State Board of Elections to complete all due diligence to give the voters of Maryland confidence in the integrity of the election system. We are also asking the federal Department of Homeland Security Election Task Force to assist the State Board of Elections for any corrective action deemed necessary.”
In a statement, Hogan wrote of his “concern”:
“While the information relayed to us did not indicate that any wrongdoing or criminal acts have been discovered, we are fast approaching an election in November, and even the appearance of the potential for bad actors to have any influence on our election infrastructure could undermine public trust in the integrity of our election system. That is why it is imperative that the State Board of Elections take immediate and comprehensive action to evaluate the security of our system and take any and all necessary steps to address any vulnerabilities. As an immediate step, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and I have written a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to collectively request that the DHS Office of Cybersecurity and Communications provide the state with technical assistance to evaluate the network utilized by the Maryland State Board of Elections, including auditing the integrity of the network.”
At least one Maryland voter said he’s concerned by this development.
“Yeah, the Russians aren’t doing that they are doing it for a reason,” said Mark Borinsky
State leaders are just as eager for answers.
“We don’t have any idea whether they meddled in any elections at all we just know that there’s Russian investment into the vendor system that we use to operate our elections,” Busch said.
The announcement was made hours after the Justice Department released a grand jury indictment against 12 Russian military intelligence officers for computer hacking offenses during the 2016 U.S. election.
However, the State Board of Election issued a statement assuring Maryland voters that Maryland’s State Board of Elections was not connected to the indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
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