Since the 2016 presidential election, there has been concern over the security of elections here in the United States. Colorado has been heralded as "the safest state to cast a vote" in The Washington Post, and we were wondering, how did Colorado earn that distinction? And what security measures are in place here going into the 2019 election?
Colorado's Secretary of State Jena Griswold joins us to explain.
These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Erin O’Toole: Walk us through Colorado's election security measures.
Jena Griswold: We are one of the safest states to cast a vote in today. And that's because we recognize that bad actors are always innovating, so we have to innovate, too. In Colorado, voting machines are not connected to the internet, and each vote has a paper record. Ballot envelope signatures are verified and results of the elections are audited, and a team of bipartisan judges monitors in-person voting. We have been the first state in the nation to implement two-factor authentication to access our voter registration system, we have one of the best information technology (IT) staffs in the nation, we do risk-limiting audits, we were the first state to implement a secure ballot return; and the list goes on about how we are innovating and leading the nation.
Is Colorado's system of mail ballots more secure than electronic voting?
In Colorado we are predominantly a mail-in ballot state, but you can also vote in person if you so choose. And absolutely, a voter-verified paper ballot is exactly what we should be moving toward as a nation, and that's what we have here in Colorado, even if you vote in person.
What are the policies for individuals helping someone fill out their ballot; for example, a relative who may be visually impaired?
It's legal in Colorado to assist someone in voting, as long as the person helping out is following the will of the voter. And we actually passed a new law in 2019 allowing blind voters to vote at home on an accessible electronic ballot.
What effect does the perception of election security issues have on voter attitudes, or perhaps voter turnout?
I believe that election cybersecurity is one of our biggest national security risks. We're very lucky here in Colorado to have attained a high level of cybersecurity but more importantly, to (consider) cyber risks so important, and really, always be thinking about how we do things better. There are many states that are light years behind us, and the problem is if something happens in another state, the public starts to doubt our entire election system. So, we all need to have the best election systems possible to confront the risks of the times we live in. And that's why it's so important for Congress to fund election cybersecurity.
When voters ask "how secure is my vote in Colorado?" what would you tell them?
I would say we are the safest state in the nation to cast a vote today, but we always have to be aware and innovating because bad actors like Russia and China are certainly innovating and trying to find new ways to undermine our democracy every single day.
This conversation is part of KUNC's Colorado Edition for Oct. 21. Listen to the full episode here.