WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee, and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) have introduced legislation to bring greater transparency to America’s election systems in an effort to protect our country from foreign interference, as occurred in the 2016 presidential election. The “Election Systems Integrity Act,” would require disclosure of foreign ownership of election service providers.
“The threats to our election systems from cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns are very real. It makes securing the integrity of our elections one of our highest national security priorities,” said Senator Cardin, author of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continuing assault on democratic institutions and the rule of law and cosponsor of the bipartisan Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act to hold Russia accountable and strengthen America’s defenses. “The American people have a right to know when foreign players have made their way in to the very inner workings of our election system. Are they friendly or are they trying to do us harm? Transparency and communication between all levels of government will help keep our future elections free and fair.”
“We must ensure that foreign adversaries who want to undermine our democracy are not in control of the infrastructure we are working to protect,” Senator Klobuchar said. “The Election Systems Integrity Act will help safeguard our election systems by requiring vendors to disclose their ownership so that state and federal officials know who is behind the companies that provide our states with election equipment. When our nation is under attack from foreign governments there is a federal obligation to act – we must take action before the next election.”
“Free and Fair elections make up the core of our democracy. Foreign ownership of any part of our elections systems creates vulnerabilities that fundamentally threaten that principle,” said Senator Van Hollen. “To prevent this practice, we must have transparency. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing legislation to shine a light on foreign actors who own American election infrastructure and to require states to take action to keep our democracy safe.”
Last year, the FBI revealed that a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin had become the largest investor in a fund tied to the company that hosted Maryland’s statewide voter registration, candidacy, and election management system; the online voter registration system; online ballot delivery system; and the unofficial election night results website. Alarmingly, the FBI – not the company itself — disclosed the change in ownership to state officials.
The Maryland Congressional delegation wrote in support of the state’s request to have the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conduct an audit of network integrity and provide technical assistance, which showed no apparent compromise of the network or election infrastructure. However, as we move closer to the 2020 elections, we know that our adversaries are continuing their coordinated, ongoing campaigns to influence Americans elections and undermine confidence in our democracy.
ELECTION SYSTEMS INTEGRITY ACT
A BILL to require information sharing with respect to the ownership of election service providers.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “Election Systems Integrity Act” or the “ESIA”.
SECTION 2. INFORMATION SHARING WITH RESPECT TO OWNERSHIP OF ELECTION SERVICE PROVIDERS.
(a) In General.—Each election service provider shall submit to the Secretary and the Commission the following:
(1) Not later than the date that is 90 days after the later of the date of the enactment of this section or the date that a person first becomes an election service provider, a report listing the identity of any foreign national (as defined in section 319(b) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (52 U.S.C. 30121(b)) who directly or indirectly owns or controls such election service provider, and the percentage of such ownership.
(2) Not later than 90 days after the date of any material change in ownership or control of such election service provider, a notice of such change and an update of any information previously reported under paragraph (1).
(b) Civil Penalty for Failure to Report.—If an election service provider fails to submit a report required under subsection (a), the Attorney General may, after notice and opportunity for hearing, impose a civil fine of $10,000.
(c) Definitions.—In this section:
(1) Commission.—The term “Commission” means the Election Assistance Commission.
(2) Election service provider.—The term “election service provider” means any person providing, supporting, or maintaining an election system on behalf of an election agency, such as a contractor or vendor.
(3) Election system.—The term “election system” means a voting system, an election management system, a voter registration website or database, an electronic pollbook, a system for tabulating or reporting election results, an election agency communications system, or any other information system (as defined in section 3502 of title 44, United States Code) that the Secretary, in consultation with the Commission, identifies as central to the management, support, or administration of a Federal election.
(4) Federal election.—The term “Federal election” means a general, special, primary, or runoff election for the office of President or Vice President, or of a Senator or Representative in, or Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, the Congress that is conducted by an election agency.
(5) Secretary.—The term “Secretary” means the Secretary of Homeland Security.