Harvard’s “D3P” group checks out Colorado’s elections

A Harvard group exploring elections and security issues toured the Colorado Secretary of State’s office and Denver Elections on Friday. Defending Digital Democracy, an initiative of the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center project, aims to deliver a publicly available resource that provides solutions and best practices to help close or mitigate digital security gaps.

Members of a much-ballyhooed project from Harvard’s Belfer Center that is aimed at helping election administrators and others protect democratic processes from cyber and information attacks were in Denver Friday to soak up Colorado’s elections process.

Election officials from as far away as La Plata and Mesa counties participated.

“The visit was phenomenal for all of us,” said Jen Nam, an Army reservist with  expertise in intelligence. “It was an eye-opening experience for how advanced and complex the elections process can be.”

Nam’s a student at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, which in July launched the “Defending Digital Democracy” Project. The initiative received plenty of attention because it is co-led led by the former campaign managers for Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney, Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades respectively, along with experts from the national security and technology communities.

Read more

Happy 70th, U.S. Air Force

Senior airman Justine Sunny during an incentive flight, which is awarded to airmen that excel in all aspects of Air Force life.

“The world’s greatest air force” turns 70 today. On Sept. 18, 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act, which established the U.S. Air Force.

Full disclosure: The Air Force is near and dear to my heart. My younger sister, Justine, is an airman serving at Kadena Air base in Okinawa, Japan. More on that later.

Wayne Williams, then chairman of the Colorado Springs Housing Authority, Brig. Gen. Mike Drennan, Dick Sullivan, the Housing Authority executive director and Col. Jack Perroni on the July/August 2000 cover of Defense Communities magazine.

My boss, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, helped those stationed at Peterson Air Force base obtain affordable housing when he served as chairman of the board for the Housing Authority in Colorado Springs in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Williams, who practiced law at the time, worked with the board on a development where monthly rent would equal the enlisted members’ housing allowances. At the time, there was a housing shortage for those assigned to Peterson.

The Air Force has a huge presence in Colorado. The Air Force Academy is in Colorado Springs. There are four air bases in Colorado: Buckley, Cheyenne Mountain, Schriever and Peterson.

Justine and me.

And then of course, there was Lowry. During World War II, Lowry became so critical in providing trained personnel to the U.S. military that the base population reached 20,000 and operated in three shifts, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, according to a Lowry website.

During a ceremony Friday honoring the Air Force as it approached its 70th birthday, President Trump praised the organization as he addressed the military at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

The president said he was “honored to join you on this really, really historic occasion, the 70th anniversary of the United States Air Force. The greatest air force on the face of this Earth. By far.”

As for my sister, Justine enlisted her senior year at Lakewood High School, Class of 2015,  and went off to basic training just a few months after graduation.

She works in armament, so basically she loads missiles on to fighter jets.  She is a little over two years in to her six-year contract, I couldn’t be more proud of her.

Check out the video of some of the SOS staff and their experience in the Air Force.

CLASS ACT: learning provided by the Colorado County Clerks Association

Two Colorado Secretary of State staffers, Trevor Timmons, the chief information officer, and Rich Schliep, the chief security officer, talk with Prowers County Clerk Jana Coen about security breaches during the Colorado County Clerks Association conference in Snowmass Village last week. (SOS photo)

Think of it as a kind of summer school for county clerks and their staffs.

A seminar about a program that allows survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking to purchase homes and file those records with county clerks without revealing their location.

Workshops on the Russians and election security.

And a class on election costs and reimbursements.

That’s some of what the Colorado County Clerks Association summer conference offered to attendees at the Westin in Snowmass Village last week.

“I learned a lot,” said Otero County Clerk and Recorder Sharon Sisnroy.

The county will be getting a new system for Motor Vehicle records and will handle property records differently, in addition to needing to educate unaffiliated voters who will automatically receive ballots in the mail for next year’s primary election.

“There’s a lot going on next year so I guess I will be going out with a bang,” said Sisnroy, who has worked at the clerk’s office for 42 years and won’t seek re-election in 2018.

Read more

Secretary Williams hands out Enstrom’s toffee, goodwill in Taiwan

Secretaries of State Wayne Williams of Colorado, Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky, Tom Schedler of Louisiana, Chern-chyi Chen, the deputy director general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs, and Secretary Mac Warner of West Virginia during this week’s visit to the Asian country.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams handed out tins of Enstrom Candies this week when visiting Taiwanese dignitaries as part of an international trade mission to Asia.

Mountains are featured on one of the tins of Enstrom ‘s toffee.

Williams is the western region vice president for the National Association of Secretaries of State. He was joined on the trip by three other secretaries of state: Tom Schedler of Louisiana, Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky and Mac Warner of West Virginia.

“The challenge with bringing Enstrom’s is that my fellow secretaries are tempted to eat it instead of giving it as a gift to our hosts,” Williams joked.

The Grand Junction-based company is known for its mouth-watering toffee. The candy is always a hit on Valentine’s Day at the Colorado Capitol.

Read more

Colorado election staffer witnesses historic Armenian election

Steve Bouey and his observation team partner, Magda, from Poland. (Steve Bouey photo)

Steve Bouey, the campaign finance manager for the Colorado Secretary of State, just completed travel to his 74th country.

Bouey felt right at home in Armenia. The altitude in the capital city of Yerevan is only 1,000 feet lower than that of Denver’s famous Mile High mark. And Armenia’s landscape is filled with mountains and picturesque forests.

As an observer for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Bouey has traveled abroad dozens of times and met hundreds of foreigners who are passionate about establishing and maintaining free and fair elections.

This was the first election of its kind in Armenia. A constitutional referendum approved in December 2015 changed the government from a semi-presidential system to a parliamentary system.

Read more