With the close of the legislative session on Monday, all eyes are turning to the 2018 elections — and election security. On the final day of the legislative session, lawmakers passed House Bill 1331, which requires the state administrator of elections to report security breaches and significant attempted violations within a week of their discovery to the State Board of Elections, governor, legislative leaders and attorney general. Delegate Alonzo T. Washington (D-Prince George’s County) sponsored the legislation after it came to light that Russian hackers tried to penetrate Maryland’s online voter registration system in August 2016. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported that voter registration databases or election agency public websites in 21 states were probed by Russian hackers during the 2016 election. At a hearing on Washington’s bill last week, Nikki Charlson, Maryland’s deputy elections administrator, said the state’s registration system was “probed,” but not “breached.”
Charlson described the unsuccessful attempt to gain access to the system using the analogy of a would-be burglar. “They jiggled the doorknob, it was locked and they left,” she said.
The State Board of Elections provided a four-page explanation of what happened in August 2016 in a letter to Delegate Carol Krimm (D-District 3A) last week.
“There’s no evidence that Maryland’s election systems or voter data were breached or compromised,” Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone wrote. “In early August 2016, we identified some unusual activity on the online registration and ballot request system and immediately blocked the IP address associated with the activity.”