Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) joined Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) in introducing the Protect Our Elections Act, which would prohibit foreign adversaries from owning and controlling the companies supporting American elections. Our intelligence chiefs have made it clear that hostile foreign actors continue to work to disrupt our democratic process by any means possible. This common-sense legislation – with public disclosure and annual reporting – is essential to ensuring that our elections are free from foreign influence.
“We cannot allow the Russians or any foreign adversary to interfere with our elections, the cornerstone of our democracy,” said Senator Collins. “This commonsense bill would help strengthen the integrity of our election process and instill confidence among voters by requiring election infrastructure vendors to be owned and controlled by American citizens or our closest allies.”
The Protection Our Elections Act contains two central provisions:
· Mandates disclosure of foreign ownership or control: The bill requires the companies that provide elections services to report to the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Election Assistance Commission, and appropriate state or local governmental entities any foreign national who owns or controls their firm. It also requires elections service providers to notify the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Election Assistance Commission, and appropriate state or local governmental entities of any material change in ownership or control. It mandates a $20,000 fine for any election service provider that fails to submit the required information.
· Prohibition on foreign ownership and control of elections systems: The bill requires state and local governments to conduct an annual evaluation of their election service providers to ensure that each election service provider is solely owned and controlled by U.S. persons. The legislation includes an exception for election service providers created or organized under the laws of our Five Eyes allies – Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.