Less than three months before early voting begins, Maryland’s U.S. senators have joined the chorus of elected officials warning that the November elections could be threatened by a Russian oligarch’s stake in a firm that manages some of the state’s most critical electoral systems. Maryland has already endured one major election snag this year. Some 80,000 voters were told just before the June 26 primary to cast provisional ballots because their change-of-address requests were flubbed by a faulty computer program. Then FBI agents revealed last month that a contractor that manages many of Maryland’s election systems has ties to Vladimir Potanin, an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. State officials launched a barrage of probes. On Tuesday Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen added to the list of inquiries by asking that a U.S. Treasury Department committee determine whether Potanin’s investment in the state contractor, ByteGrid, poses a national security threat.
“We know that our elections are under threat from foreign cyberattacks and disinformation efforts,” the Maryland Democrats wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “Our democratic process can also be manipulated through foreign investment in elections infrastructure.”
Cardin and Van Hollen asked Mnuchin to authorize the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to review the transaction between AltPoint Capital — an investment fund whose largest investor is Potanin — and ByteGrid.
Virginia-based ByteGrid, with three offices in Maryland, owns the servers that hold the data for voter registration, candidacy, election management and election night results, state elections officials said.
Altpoint Capital, a $1 billion private equity firm based in Greenwich, Conn., bought an ownership stake in ByteGrid Holdings LLC in 2011, spokesman Devin Tilitz said. The largest investor in Altpoint Capital Partners is Potanin.
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