Maryland election contractor has ties to Russian oligarch

Opioid epidemic: Most impacted states
Maryland had opioid-related mortality rates that were at least doubling every 3 years. The state also saw synthetic opioid-related deaths double every two years, with 17.7 reported for every 100,000 persons.

Maryland elected officials are sounding off about an FBI tip that a third-party company contracted for elections has ties to a Russian oligarch, officials said on Monday.

“When the FBI comes in and tells you that they have information that there might be Russian money involved in the vendor you have for your electoral system, you take notice,” Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch told CNN on Monday.

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

ByteGrid is majority owned by AltPoint Capital Partners. They have general and limited partners, one of whom is Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin, company officials confirmed.

The FBI did not say there was evidence of any breach of security or fraud, the elected officials and the board of elections said.

A letter crafted by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan after he and Busch met with the FBI asks the Department of Homeland Security for “technical assistance to evaluate the network” used by the Maryland State Board of Elections.

“The mere fact that we have had discussions with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Homeland Security, Office of Cybersecurity and Communications should provide evidence of our grave concern regarding this matter,” Hogan said in the letter sent to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

DHS officials said in a statement that they have been in contact with Maryland officials about the meeting and their concerns.

“While we have no reason to believe Maryland state systems have been compromised, this serves as an opportunity to remind all critical infrastructure owners and operators to remain aware of key information regarding their contractors and subcontractors, including ownership, management, funding sources, and other activities,” the statement read.

Annie Eissler, chief marketing director for ByteGrid, said in a statement that investors have no involvement or control in company operations.

“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,” Eissler said in the statement.

The Maryland news comes after Illinois officials acknowledged that their state was referenced in a federal indictment against a dozen Russian intelligence operatives, some of whom allegedly hacked into the Illinois State Board of Elections during the 2016 campaign.

State officials in Illinois say it is “likely” that Illinois is the state referenced to as “SBOE 1” in the indictment. The state is taking steps to shore up its security.

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin denied any Russian interference in the 2016 election during their meeting on Monday.