Secretary Williams serves on bipartisan election preparedness panel

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, right,  joined other election experts  and others in Washington, D.C., to discuss “Are We Ready to Run Our Elections?” From left to right, moderator John Fortier, director of The Democracy Project, Thomas Hicks, the chair of the U.S.  Election Assistance Commission, Matthew Masterson, senior cybersecurity adviser for the Department of Homeland Security, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Secretary Williams. (NASS photo)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams recently made a trip to the nation’s capital to discuss Colorado’s progress in keeping the voting process and voter registration accessible and secure.

As far as accessibility goes, Colorado is one of the easiest states to vote in, according to a recent study by Northern Illinois University.

“We are the Burger King of running elections,” Secretary Williams said. “You can basically have it your way — vote by mail, in person … lots of different ways for people to vote and participate.”

Williams was joined by New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Matthew Masterson, senior cybersecurity adviser for the Department of Homeland Security, and Thomas Hicks, chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. (NASS photo)

Williams addressed concerns over cybersecurity and foreign influence as part of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s event, “Are We Ready to Run Our Elections?”

The panel discussed the 2016 election and what Masterson described as a “real and concentrated effort to undermine confidence.” Williams pointed out that many Americans are still troubled by the cyber attacks and dissemination of disinformation on social media in the last national election.

Both Masterson and Hicks said their roles are to support the states to prevent and respond to security threats, as well as encourage wider participation help to ensure a safe election.

The working relationship between Homeland Security and the National Association of Secretary of States,  or NASS, has improved.  Williams, who serves on the NASS board, said in 2016 the federal agency did not know who to tell about election security threats. Now, both the states and the federal government have made a concerted effort to work together.

“The difference between then and now is the difference between night and day,” he said.

Masterson, a former EAC member, agreed, noting “the biggest change and improvement is the amount of information being shared… We are just getting regular information from states and locals. That is critical to understanding the threat, sharing information, and managing risks.”

New Mexico and Colorado both utilize risk limiting audits to ensure that voter confidence remains high in the tabulation of the election and monitor social media to respond to misinformation.

“If you believe that your vote will get counted,” Williams said, “you’re more likely to vote.”