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

Secretary Williams, others, concentrate on election security in Philly

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, center front, with some of the nation’s secretaries of state, including Colorado’s Wayne Williams, back right. She spoke to the National Association of Secretaries of State about election security at NASS’ conference in Philadelphia on July 14.

Election security once again dominated the conversation — and Colorado once again proved to be a leader — when the National Association of Secretaries of State gathered in Philadelphia for its summer conference.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams outlined for the group the steps his office has taken when it comes to cybersecurity — moves that that led Colorado to be named a finalist for the fourth time in five years for a NASS award that recognizes innovation.

“Elections only work if people trust them,” Williams said.

Four Coloradans with a seat at a high-powered elections security meeting in Philadelphia; Judd Choate, elections director for the Colorado secretary of state, Sarah Ball Johnson, clerk for the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Amber McReynolds, elections director for Denver.

Kirstjen Nielsen, the director of the Department of Homeland Security, reinforced to secretaries of state and election officials that one of her top priorities has been to enhance the resilience of the nation’s election infrastructure.

“As I see it,” she said, “election security is national security.”

And the day before NASS kicked off its conference, Williams and other members of the Election Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council met at the same Philadelphia hotel to discuss the security of election systems.

The group oversees how the Department of Homeland Security works with state and local jurisdictions to implement its designation of elections systems as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

“At one point there were 27 people around the table — including members of DHS, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and other national groups – four of those 27 were from Colorado,” Williams said. “Colorado’s commitment to election security is so strong.”

The other Coloradans at that meeting were Judd Choate, the elections director for the Colorado Secretary of State, Sarah Ball Johnson, the clerk in Colorado Springs, and Amber McReynolds, Denver’s elections director.

Read moreSecretary Williams, others, concentrate on election security in Philly