Md. leaders in Congress ask for help securing state elections

In a letter to Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Thursday, Maryland's entire Congressional Delegation said that "all levels of our government must take every necessary precaution" to preserve the integrity of America's elections. (AP/Mel Evans)

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers representing Maryland on Capitol Hill have joined state leaders in asking the Department of Homeland Security for assistance in making sure Maryland election systems are secure.

In a letter to Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Thursday, Maryland’s entire congressional delegation said that “all levels of our government must take every necessary precaution” to preserve the integrity of America’s elections.

State leaders, including Gov. Larry Hogan, initially asked for help last week following a revelation that a Russian oligarch had invested in a company that helps manage Maryland’s elections.

There was no evidence of a breach or any wrongdoing, according to the FBI.

Additionally, the company, ByteGrid, insisted that investors have no impact on business operations.

But the news sparked concern among state officials, especially because it came shortly after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers on hacking-related charges in the 2016 U.S. election.

“We are writing to express our strong support for the State of Maryland’s request for federal assistance,” lawmakers said in the letter signed by all Maryland members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Along with their letter, the lawmakers addressed the situation with two pieces of legislation this week.

Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican, and Democratic Rep. John Delaney introduced a bipartisan measure called the Protect Election Systems from Foreign Control Act. It requires election systems vendors associated with federal elections to be owned and controlled by domestic companies.

In a statement, Harris said “foreign election interference is a critical threat to the United States’ national security.”

The second bill, introduced by several Maryland Democrats, is called the Election Vendor Security Act and would strengthen state election systems against foreign cyberattacks.

According to Rep. Jamie Raskin, the measure would require election vendors to be owned and controlled by a citizen or permanent resident of the United States and to disclose whether they are using foreign-made parts in their products and software.

“We know that Russian hackers targeted and hacked into our election systems in 2016,” Raskin said in a statement. “These attacks exposed serious national security vulnerabilities in our election infrastructure.”

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