The Ripon Forum

Volume 52, No. 6

December 2018

Voters Deserve to Know Their Votes will Count

By on December 17, 2018

by WAYNE WILLIAMS

The 2018 election in Colorado saw the Democrats take over both chambers of the legislature and all five statewide elected officers. My job as Secretary of State was among the losses. Despite that, it was an honor to serve, and I believe strongly that we have the best system of government in the world. To that end, voters must have faith in that system and deserve to know their votes will count.

In a recent Gallup poll, a full one-third of Americans were not confident that their votes are accurately counted. Over the last four years, my office has worked to adopt standards to restore the trust of the people. One of the most significant and public challenges of the last several years has been working to guarantee the security of Colorado’s elections.

When it comes to the federal government, we work with them, not under them.

In 2015, under my leadership, we conducted a careful and deliberate process resulting in new voting system standards for all of Colorado. New systems in our state ensure that voters will have a good voting experience no matter where they live; election administrator training will be done uniformly; and local administrators will have more flexibility in reacting to unforeseen circumstances that might require replacement voting equipment. Every ballot has a verifiable paper record.

Beginning in 2017, Colorado became the first state in the nation to conduct a risk-limiting audit (RLA) after each election. Through a random auditing of paper ballots, we are able to provide statistical evidence that the election outcome is correct, as well as a high probability of correcting a wrong outcome.

This year, the Secretary of State’s office also held a first of its kind elections and cybersecurity training exercise known as the Election Preparedness for Infrastructure and Cybersecurity, or EPIC. Think of it as “war games,” election style. Nearly 200 election officials and representatives of federal agencies participated in this training to prepare for a myriad of scenarios that could occur on Election Day.

I like to say that election cybersecurity is a race without a finish line. With all of these efforts, it is no wonder that The Washington Post and Fox News both recognized Colorado as the safest state to cast a vote.

Congress would be well served to honor this distinction and allow state and local governments the latitude they need to guarantee a safe election in their states.

When it comes to the federal government, we work with them, not under them. Congress would be well served to honor this distinction and allow state and local governments the latitude they need to guarantee a safe election in their states. Each model is different and this decentralized system is an added layer of security. During the 2016 and 2018 elections we partnered with the Department of Homeland Security, the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), the FBI and the National Guard. Our office also gratefully accepted over $6.3 million in federal funding to help further bolster our cybersecurity efforts.

These partnerships are valuable and should continue. I encourage every member of Congress to visit their elections offices, become familiar with their processes and partner with election administrators to make the voting experience better for their state and districts.

Wayne W. Williams serves as Secretary of State of Colorado.

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