Link between Russian-backed company and MD State Board of Elections

Posted at 6:56 PM, Jul 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-16 18:02:17-04

On the same day that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers on charges of interfering in the process of the 2016 election, the Federal Bureau of Investigations announced that a software vendor the Maryland Board of Elections uses has links to Russia.

READ MORE: 12 Russians indicted in Mueller probe for hacking Democrats in 2016 election

The State Board of Elections released a statement Friday saying portions of its voter registration platform was purchased by a Russian investor in 2015.

According to the State Board of Elections, the vendor is ByteGrid LLC, it hosts the statewide voter registration, candidacy, election management system, online voter registration system, online ballot delivery system, and unofficial election night results website.

FBI officials say ByteGrid LLC is financed by AltPoint Capital Partners, whose fund manager is a Russian and its largest investor is a Russian oligarch named Vladimir Potanin.

ByteGrid LLC released a statement regarding the incident: 

ByteGrid Holdings LLC maintains secure and compliant IT hosting infrastructure for companies and organizations that value data privacy and protection. We stand by our commitment to security in everything we do, and do not share information about who our customers are and what we do for them. Because it is a government contract, information related to our relationship with the Maryland State Board of Elections is publicly available and we encourage you to read the publicly available documents. ByteGrid is managed and run by seasoned Internet and IT industry leaders. ByteGrid's investors have no involvement or control in company operations.

In a statement released by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch they were informed by the FBI of the news late Thursday alongside Governer Larry Hogan.

“We were briefed late yesterday, along with Governor Hogan, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the software vendor who maintains portions of the State Board of Elections voter registration platform was purchased by a Russian investor in 2015, without the knowledge of State officials. 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."

Governor Larry Hogan also released a statement on the situation and expressed his concern with the recent news as the coming election is expected in November.

"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."

Hogan concluded by saying that they will continue to closely monitor the situation in the coming days and weeks to ensure that all Maryland voters can have faith in the integrity of our election system.

The State Board of Elections said it wants to assure Maryland voters that the state election office mentioned in the indictment made by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein was not Maryland's State Board of Elections.

They also say that no Maryland election official has used or is using services provided by the vendor referenced in the indictment.

In response on Monday, Maryland Congressmen Andy Harris (MD-1) and John K. Delaney (MD-6) said they planned to file bipartisan legislation entitled 'The Protecting Elections Systems from Foreign Control Act.' The bill would require election systems vendors to be  owned and controlled by domestic companies for Federal elections.