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.

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Two election managers, from Denver, El Paso County, receive honors

Denver Clerk and Recorder Deb Johnson and Denver elections director Amber McReynolds. (Photo by Alton Dillard)
Denver Clerk and Recorder Deb Johnson and Denver elections director Amber McReynolds. (File photo by Alton Dillard/Denver Elections)

Denver Elections has won its latest prestigious award, for its first-in-the-nation innovation that allows voters to sign petitions and register to vote on a tablet instead of paper.

Denver received the Outstanding Achievement in International Institutional Engagement and Electoral Ergonomy from the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS) for its eSign/VRD.

“Some of the past award winners from the ICPS include former President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former South African President Nelson Mandela,”  elections director Amber McReynolds said in a news release.  “To be recognized for our efforts is both humbling and indicative of our commitment to create innovative solutions that better serve our customers.

Meanwhile, another elections director,  Liz Olson, was named the Leader of the Year in the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s office. The award typically does not go to someone in management.

“On the heels of a tremendously challenging and historical presidential election, it’s more than fitting to acknowledge the exceptional leadership skills of the person at the head of our Election Department, manager Liz Olson,” the El Paso County Clerk’s office posted on its Facebook page.

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Secretary Williams addresses Colorado Social Legislation Committee

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, flanked by Denver elections director Amber McReynolds and Rep. Su Ryden, at the Colorado Social Legislation Committee lunch Monday. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, flanked by Denver elections director Amber McReynolds and Rep. Su Ryden, at the Colorado Social Legislation Committee lunch Monday. (SOS photo)

By Keara Brosnan

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams outlined his legislative agenda, explained why he supports a presidential primary bill and discussed the selection of Dominion as the state’s new voting vendor when he spoke this week to the Colorado Social Legislation Committee.

This topic at  the CSLC week’s lunch  concerned elections; the other two panelists were Amber McReynolds, Denver’s elections director, and Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, who chairs the committee that hears most election measures.

Williams said he was warned before the 2016 session it would be difficult to get bills through a divided legislature in an election year. But so far things have gone well, he said, and one measure last week passed the Democratic-controlled House 65-0 and the Republican-controlled Senate 34-0.

“We’ve actually got some things done that needed to get done,” he said.

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Denver pioneers election techniques

How cool to rack up so many awards for election innovation. Clerk and recorder Debra Johnson and elections director Amber McReynolds at one of Denver's 24 round-the-clock ballot boxes. (Photo by Alton Dillard)
How cool to rack up so many awards for election innovations. Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson and Denver elections director Amber McReynolds at one of Denver’s two dozen 24-hour ballot boxes. (Photo by Alton Dillard)

When it comes to voting, Denver is a pioneer, whether it’s convenient round-the-clock ballot boxes or ballot tracking.

The Denver Election Division  currently provides 24 round-the-clock ballot boxes where voters can drop off their ballots.  The boxes are in use now as voters drop off ballots for the Nov. 3 coordinated election. Other county clerks have followed suit. 

“We are a state-of-the-art election office that is one of the best in the country,” Denver elections director Amber McReynolds said. “We have spent significant time supporting counties across Colorado and the nation to export our ideas, innovations and service.  It is all worth it if we can improve the voting process for voters everywhere.  That is why it matters to us.”

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