Foreign nationals would be prohibited from owning or controlling companies that support U.S. election systems under legislation introduced by two senators from Maryland, where officials learned this summer that a Russian oligarch is heavily invested in a company that maintains key parts of their state’s election infrastructure. Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin are sponsoring the “Protect Our Elections Act,” along with Republican Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine. “We cannot allow Russia or any other foreign adversaries to own our elections systems,” Van Hollen said. “This isn’t just a hypothetical issue — it happened right here in my home state of Maryland.”
The measure would require companies that provide elections services to report any foreign national who owns or controls their firm to the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Election Assistance Commission and state and local government officials. It also would require companies to provide notice of any material change in ownership or control. The bill establishes a $10,000 fine for failing to do so.
It also requires state and local governments to annually evaluate their election service providers to make sure they are solely owned and controlled by U.S. citizens. The measure includes an exception for providers organized under an intelligence alliance that includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.