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Company with Russian investment no longer owns firm that hosts Maryland election data

Company with Russian investment no longer owns firm that hosts Maryland election data
Voters cast ballots on Nov. 6, 2018, at Chesapeake High School in Pasadena. (Joshua McKerrow / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

A new firm has taken ownership of hosting Maryland’s elections data after a federal investigation into the Russian ties of the previous vendor.

Maryland elections administrator Linda Lamone said Monday the state will use Intelishift, a Virginia-based data center, and its subsidiary, The Sidus Group, through Dec. 31.

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The Sidus Group was previously a unit of ByteGrid LLC. The FBI revealed in July that ByteGrid was connected to Vladimir Potanin, a wealthy ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Potanin is an investor in a private equity firm, Altpoint Capital of Greenwich, Connecticut, that bought an ownership stake in ByteGrid in 2011.

ByteGrid — through The Sidus Group — hosted Maryland’s online voter services, election-night website and voter registration, candidacy and election management systems.

ByteGrid insisted at the time of the FBI announcement that its investors “have no involvement or control in company operations.”

Neither Intelishift or ByteGrid responded to a request for comment on the transfer of ownership of The Sidus Group.

“The State Board of Election is in the process of confirming with our federal government partners the corporate and financial background of Intelishift,” Lamone said in a statement.

After an investigation last year, state and federal authorities said they were confident Maryland’s voting system is well fortified against ongoing cyberthreats from foreign nations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wrote in a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan in the fall that its agents have “found no evidence of an adversary presence in the networks.”

Nevertheless, “the elections board concluded it was in the best interests of the state to transition to another data center,” according to a memo submitted to the Board of Public Works.

In a related matter, the board — the state’s spending panel — is scheduled to vote Wednesday to approve a $184,000 payment to Cybraics Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for its work assisting the Board of Elections when The Sidus Group was still under ByteGrid’s control and the board sought to move data away from The Sidus Group.

Hogan, a Republican, and two Democrats — Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp — sit on the board.

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