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.”

Wayne Williams hits the road again

Secretary of State Wayne Williams stands at the top of Molas Pass, 10,910 feet, in the San Juan Mountains in southern Colorado this week, where he was visiting county clerks.  (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams visited three southwestern counties this week to check in with clerks prior to this year’s midterm elections to see if they needed any help from his office.

Williams thanked the clerks for heading to the Denver metro area earlier this month to attend a training exercise called EPIC — Election Preparedness for Infrastructure and Cybersecurity. National and state cybersecurity officials attended the event, where clerks and county officials handled various Election Day scenarios thrown at them.

Ben Schler, the Secretary of State’s legal and policy manager, accompanied Williams on the trip. Schler, who grew up on a farm just outside of Durango, said he was happy to see the fall colors and to “make sure that we provide the clerks with the support they need.”

This week’s deadline for the clerks: Military and overseas ballots must go out by Saturday.

The secretary and Schler met with clerks in San Juan, San Miguel and Alamosa counties.

“I made a commitment when I  first ran for this office to visit every county every two years. So far, we have hit 61 counties in this cycle,” Williams said. “Colorado is incredibly beautiful, especially this time of the year with the leaves turning.”

Here’s a look at each visit:

Read moreWayne Williams hits the road again

Secretary Williams teams up with FBI, CU Denver for cybersecurity event

FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Calvin Shivers, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell addressed elected officials, candidates and others today before the start of a cybersecurity training exercise. (FBI photo)

Another day, another exercise on cybersecurity for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, this time teaming up with the Denver FBI office and the University of Colorado Denver.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams joined with FBI Special Agent in Charge Calvin Shivers and CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell today in welcoming elected officials and candidates to a training event at the Tivoli Turnhalle. The half day seminar was designed to help them maintain a posture of awareness and protect themselves from cyber intrusion.

Among those at today’s cybersecurity event put on by the FBI and the Colorado Secretary of State’s office were Fremont County Deputy Clerk Dotty Gardunio and elections director Jami Goff. Behind them are the SOS’ chief information security officer Rich Schliep and Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)

“We have with us today candidates, parties, and others because cybersecurity isn’t just limited to the actual election process,” Williams said, in his introduction.

“For a lot of individuals, when they hear a report of a hack, they don’t distinguish between the ballot and information that might have been obtained about a candidate or a party. So I appreciate your willingness to be here, your willingness to participate and, frankly, your willingness to actually show leadership in this area.”

Among those at Monday’s exercise were Martha Tierney, the attorney for the Colorado Democratic Party, Pam Anderson, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, and Tom Lucero, a former member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents.

Read moreSecretary Williams teams up with FBI, CU Denver for cybersecurity event

Secretary Williams’ war games, election style proves to be epic

Colorado Secretary of State shakes hands with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen before her keynote speech at Colorado’s Election Preparedness for Infrastructure and Cybersecurity exercise Thursday. (DHS photo)

The role-playing was, well, EPIC.

When election and cybersecurity officials from Colorado and and other parts of the nation gathered for a training exercise, they were given assignments to play as various election disaster scenarios played out.

Misleading tweets that confuse voters. Equipment outages. Hackers.

Eagle County Clerk Regina O’Brien served as a county election director.

Dwight Shellman, the county support manager for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, plays the role of a reporter asking tough questions during a mock election disaster drill.  He is interviewing Tammy Patrick of Democracy Fund, while in the background is the SOS’s Steve Bouey. (SOS photo)

Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill portrayed her former employee, Dwight Shellman, who now is the county support manager for the Secretary of State’s office.

And Shellman assumed the identity of various Denver reporters, from the Colorado Sun’s John Frank to 9News’ Marshall Zellinger, asking tough questions of election officials.

“I out Marshalled Marshall,” Shellman boasted.

Welcome to war games, election style or, as the exercise was officially dubbed, EPIC — Election Preparedness for Infrastructure and Cybersecurity.

The goal, Secretary of State Wayne Williams said, was to help prepare Colorado election officials for the Nov. 6 election. Clerks, their staffers, county IT officials and others gathered in five separate rooms and were instructed to deal with the scenarios that were unfolding.

Read moreSecretary Williams’ war games, election style proves to be epic

SOS staffer attends Def Con conference, says Colorado looks good

Colorado election officials at Def Con’s voting hacking village. Left to right: Dwight Shellman, county support manager for the Secretary of State, Amber McReynolds, Denver elections director, and Jennifer Morrell, Democracy Fund consultant. (Photo by Joe Kiniry, who led the team at Free & Fair that helped develop software for Colorado’s first-in-the country risk-limiting audit. )

Secretary of State staffer Dwight Shellman returned from a hacking convention with the message that although Colorado’s elections are secure from the types of voting machine and website attacks demonstrated at the conference, state and local officials need to remain vigilant.

The 26th annual Def Con conference featured a large number of “villages” in which attendees learned about and sometimes attempted to hack a broad range of technologies and platforms, including automobile software and cannabis cultivation technologies. .

Def Con’s voting village logo. (Def Con photo)

Shellman, the county support manager for the state Elections Division, focused most of his attention on the Voting Village, which invited participants to test “more than 30 pieces of electronic voting equipment” and “defend or hack mock office network and voter registration databases,” according to Def Con’s website.

He witnessed kiddie hackers gain access — but said the whole story wasn’t reported.

Read moreSOS staffer attends Def Con conference, says Colorado looks good