STATE ELEC­TIONS CHIEF DE­FENDS VOT­ING SYS­TEM

Speak­ing in Bos­ton, Colorado’s sec­re­tary of state adamant “that vote’s go­ing to count.”

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John Frank

BOS­TON» A Wis­con­sin law­maker took the mi­cro­phone and aimed a pointed ques­tion this week at Colorado Sec­re­tary of State Wayne Wil­liams: What is the state do­ing to pro­tect its vot­ing sys­tems against in­ter­net hack­ers and elec­tion ma­nip­u­la­tion?

It’s be­come a fa­mil­iar one for the Repub­li­can elec­tions chief, and he told a con­fer­ence for state law­mak­ers Mon­day in Bos­ton what he has tried to tell Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and others who con­tinue to ques­tion the in­tegrity of the na­tion’s elec­tion sys­tem.

“Thanks for the ques­tion,” started Wil­liams, a fea­tured speaker at the an­nual sum­mit for the Den­ver-based Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures. “Colorado is very ag­gres­sive at pro­tect­ing the on­line voter reg­is­tra­tion data­base.”

The ex­as­per­a­tion in Wil­liams’ voice is thinly veiled af­ter more than a year of an­swer­ing ques­tions on the topic, most of them in re­sponse to Trump’s ac­cu­sa­tions, and he doesn’t seem to rel­ish the role.

“The frus­trat­ing part is when peo­ple hear the elec­tion was hacked and what they mean is they hacked the (Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee) server for in­for­ma­tion — that’s very dif­fer­ent from say­ing the elec­tions ma­chines were hacked,” he said in an in­ter­view after­ward.

“The frus­tra­tion most of us in the elec­tion com­mu­nity have … is if you tell peo­ple their vote is at risk of be­ing hacked, they are less likely to vote. And we want peo­ple to feel con­fi­dent when they cast that vote, that vote’s go­ing to count.”

Wil­liams went to great lengths to make his case — of­fer­ing lit­tle­known de­tails about how his of­fice worked to pre­vent cy­ber­at­tacks in the 2016 elec­tion that drew 2.9 mil­lion votes in Colorado.

But he still faced skep­ti­cal ques­tions from law­mak­ers, many of whom em­pha­sized the need for laws re­quir­ing vot­ers to show iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to vote — a pro­posal Wil­liams fa­vors — and ex­pressed con­cerns about same-day reg­is­tra­tion.

On the se­cu­rity ques­tion, Wil­liams made one point clear: The vot­ing tab­u­la­tion ma­chines are not con­nected to the in­ter­net and not eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to hack­ers. And the voter reg­is­tra­tion data­base is closely guarded — with more se­cu­rity than ever in 2016 af­ter the FBI dis­cov­ered that a Rus­sian hacker ac­cessed the Ari­zona voter list.

Two teams of three cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­perts from the Colorado Na­tional Guard spent Elec­tion Day at the sec­re­tary of state’s of­fice in Den­ver mon­i­tor­ing who ac-

cessed the voter reg­is­tra­tion data­base and a por­tal for in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing es­tab­lished with help from the U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity. A lo­cal FBI spe­cial agent who fo­cuses on elec­tion is­sues spent the day on the phone with the of­fice fo­cus­ing on cy­ber­se­cu­rity, more so than the tra­di­tional voter sup­pres­sion con­cerns, said Trevor Tim­mons, chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer at the sec­re­tary of state’s of­fice.

The Guard of­fered the help as part of its train­ing, and Wil­liams ac­cepted.

The state’s voter reg­is­tra­tion went dark for 29 min­utes on Elec­tion Day af­ter be­com­ing over­loaded with traf­fic, but Wil­liams said it was not re­lated to a hack­ing at­tempt. And he said he im­ple­mented new test­ing pro­ce­dures to make sure it won’t hap­pen again.

Wil­liams also em­pha­sized Colorado’s con­ver­sion to new elec­tion ma­chines, now be­ing put in place in 54 of the state’s 64 coun­ties, that cre­ates a pa­per record. “Even if you say you can hack some­thing, we still have a pa­per bal­lot record of how you voted,” he said.

He also de­fended his de­ci­sion to com­ply with a re­quest from the pres­i­den­tial ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion on elec­tion in­tegrity, not­ing that he only pro­vided data that is pub­licly avail­able — and used by the law­mak­ers in their cam­paigns.

He cau­tioned law­mak­ers not to rush to make the data pri­vate in re­sponse to the com­mis­sion’s re­quest, say­ing it will only cre­ate con­cerns about elec­tions be­ing held “in se­cret.”

“It’s a key part of trans­parency and open­ness,” he said. “It is im­por­tant that we be able to say, ‘Yes, 1.3 mil­lion voted in the elec­tion, and these are the peo­ple who voted.’ … We are not say­ing, ‘Trust us, we are the gov­ern­ment.’ ”

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