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.”

A roll of the dice and off goes Colorado to audit elections in a new way

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams explains what’s next after multi-colored 10-sided dice were used Friday to establish a “seed” to randomly select ballots for each county to audit. (SOS photo/Judd Choate)

A process to audit Colorado’s elections in a different manner drew national attention Friday when participants at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office plucked names from Rockies and Broncos baseball caps to see who would roll 20 colored 10-sided dice. The numbers were used to come up with a “seed” to randomly select ballots from the Nov. 7 election for the counties to audit.

From left, U.S. Election Assistance Commission chairman  Matt Masterson, Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane and Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall wait for dice to be rolled, the first step in randomly selecting ballots for each county to audit during the RLA. (SOS photo)

The light-hearted ceremony kicked off work that began in 2009 when the Colorado General Assembly passed legislation requiring every county after every election to create a risk-limiting audit, a procedure that provides strong statistical evidence that the election outcome is right and has a high probability of correcting a wrong outcome.

“It was an incredibly successful first effort,” said the Secretary of State’s Dwight Shellman, the county support manager.  “I’m really proud of our team and of all the county clerks. We are already in the process of working with the clerks and interested stakeholders to collect lessons learned to make the process even better in the future.”

The Secretary of State’s office will release a report Monday on the first steps of the audit.

Read moreA roll of the dice and off goes Colorado to audit elections in a new way