WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar, Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee (D-Minn.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) have introduced legislation to bring greater transparency to America’s election systems in an effort to protect our country from foreign interference, as occurred in the 2016 presidential election. The “Election Systems Integrity Act,” (S. 3572) would require disclosure of foreign ownership of election service providers. This summer, it was revealed that a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin has become the largest investor in a fund tied to the company that hosts Maryland’s statewide voter registration, candidacy, and election management system; the online voter registration system; online ballot delivery system; and the unofficial election night results website. Disclosure to state officials of this change in ownership was made by the FBI and not the company itself.
“There is bipartisan agreement that our elections are under threat from foreign cyberattacks and disinformation efforts. It makes securing the integrity of our elections one of our highest national security priorities,” said Senator Cardin. “While there are many safeguards in place, the American people have a right to know when foreign players have made their way in to the very inner workings of our election system. Transparency and communication between all levels of government will help keep our future elections free and fair.”
“Foreign adversaries continue to target our election systems every day—we must ensure that those who want to undermine our democracy are not in control of the very infrastructure we are trying to protect,” said Senator Klobuchar. “The Election Systems Integrity Act will help safeguard our election systems by requiring vendors to disclose their ownership so that state and federal officials know who is behind the companies that provide our states with election equipment.”
“Our free and fair elections are central to what makes America’s democracy an example to the world. Foreign ownership of the very nuts and bolts of our election systems – like we saw here in Maryland – opens a door to potential attacks that we cannot allow. Step one to preventing this abuse is transparency,” said Senator Van Hollen. “The Election Systems Integrity Act will shine a light on any foreign actors who own American election infrastructure and allow states to take action to keep our democracy safe.”
To require information sharing with respect to the ownership of election service providers.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “Election Systems Integrity Act” or the “ESIA”.
SEC. 2. INFORMATION SHARING WITH RESPECT TO OWNERSHIP OF ELECTION SERVICE PROVIDERS.
(a) In General.—Each election service provider shall submit to the Secretary and the Commission the following:
(1) Not later than the date that is 90 days after the later of the date of the enactment of this section or the date that a person first becomes an election service provider, a report listing the identity of any foreign national (as defined in section 319(b) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (52 U.S.C. 30121(b)) who directly or indirectly owns or controls such election service provider, and the percentage of such ownership.
(2) Not later than 90 days after the date of any material change in ownership or control of such election service provider, a notice of such change and an update of any information previously reported under paragraph (1).
(b) Civil Penalty for Failure to Report.—If an election service provider fails to submit a report required under subsection (a), the Attorney General may, after notice and opportunity for hearing, impose a civil fine of $10,000.
(c) Definitions.—In this section:
(1) Commission.—The term “Commission” means the Election Assistance Commission.
(2) Election service provider.—The term “election service provider” means any person providing, supporting, or maintaining an election system on behalf of an election agency, such as a contractor or vendor.
(3) Election system.—The term “election system” means a voting system, an election management system, a voter registration website or database, an electronic pollbook, a system for tabulating or reporting election results, an election agency communications system, or any other information system (as defined in section 3502 of title 44, United States Code) that the Secretary, in consultation with the Commission, identifies as central to the management, support, or administration of a Federal election.
(4) Federal election.—The term “Federal election” means a general, special, primary, or runoff election for the office of President or Vice President, or of a Senator or Representative in, or Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, the Congress that is conducted by an election agency.
(5) Secretary.—The term “Secretary” means the Secretary of Homeland Security.