Colorado SOS participates in Homeland Security election exercise

Two Colorado Secretary of state staffers, Trevor Timmons, left, and Rich Schliep, right, flank two Dominion Voting Systems staffers, Donetta Davidson and Kay Stimson, after a Department of Homeland Security tabletop exercise Monday. (SOS photo)

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office and other agencies participated Monday in a virtual exercise aimed at election preparedness.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security sponsored the tabletop exercise with some 20 states as the general election looms and concerns continue about election security issues.

“They posed scenarios and asked, ‘How would you approach this?’” said Trevor Timmons, chief information officer for the Colorado Secretary of State.

Timmons and other SOS officials, along with members of the Colorado National Guard, the Governor’s Office of Information and Technology and DHS officials based in Colorado participated in the table top from the Secretary of State’s conference room.

Additionally,  Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, recognized as a leader in election security, appeared today on a national public radio program to talk about election security.

“You have to have processes in place that people can have confidence in. That’s why Colorado has some of the highest voter participation rates in the country,” he told The Takeway.

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Homeland Security “hunts” at Colorado Secretary of State’s office

The “bad boys” of the Colorado Secretary of State’s IT department: Craig Buesing and Dave Shepard, network and security engineers, Trevor Timmons, chief information officer, and Rich Schliep, chief information security officer. (SOS photo)

At the invitation of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Department of Homeland Security officials came to Colorado hunting for bad guys in the SOS’s network.

Did they bag anything?

“I learned a new acronym: NSTR — Nothing Significant to Report,” said  Trevor Timmons, the Secretary of State’s office chief information officer.

The exercise is the latest effort by Williams to ensure that Colorado’s elections are accurate and secure. The Washington Post recently wrote about “how Colorado became the safest state to cast a vote.” Colorado already had implemented many of the measures recommended after election officials learned of Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

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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.

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Secretary of State Wayne Williams welcomes new Americans

Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution hand out flags to guests Tuesday at a naturalization ceremony in Centennial. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams greeted the 38 citizens who immigrated from 24 different countries. (Lynn Bartels, SOS)
Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution hand out flags to guests Tuesday at a naturalization ceremony in Centennial. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams greeted the 38 citizens who immigrated from 24 different countries. (Lynn Bartels, SOS)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams welcomed 38 new Americans today at a naturalization ceremony in Centennial, where proud friends and families waved American flags as they took the oath of allegiance.

“My office helps Coloradans to achieve the American dream,” Williams told the 38, who immigrated from 24 different countries. “We are here to help you achieve exactly that.”

Samrawit Gebremeskel of Aurora poses with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Supervisor Scott Koenigsberg with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after receiving her naturalization certificate. (Lynn Bartels, SOS)
Samrawit Gebremeskel of Aurora poses with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Supervisor Scott Koenigsberg with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after receiving her naturalization certificate. (Lynn Bartels, SOS)

After the ceremony, the secretary of state’s office registered new citizens who wanted to immediately sign up to vote.

Colorado’s latest U.S. citizens, hailed from a variety of countries, including Burma, El Salvador, France, Iraq, Israel, Mexico, Nepal, Russian and Vietnam.

“This shows the great diversity of those who want to make the United States their home,” said Scott Koenisberg with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He oversaw the ceremony and administered the oath.

Samrawit Gebremesekel, a 37-year-old who was born in Ethopia beamed throughout the ceremony. Afterward, she was asked what it meant to her. “Just everything,” she said.

Williams, who took office in January as Colorado’s 38th secretary of state, said he enjoys speaking to new U.S. citizens. Again and again he posed with a new American while their family and friends took pictures.

The Mount Rosa chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution handed out flags to the guests. The new citizens were asked to document their  journeys so their descendants will have a record of their experiences.