Briefline

Secretary of State Jena Griswold adopts temporary Colorado election security rules

By: - February 11, 2022 1:16 pm

Jena Griswold, the then-Colorado secretary of state-elect, during the Democratic watch party in downtown Denver on Nov. 6, 2018. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold issued new temporary elections rules on Thursday aimed at enhancing the security of the state’s voting systems in light of security breaches in systems around the state. 

“Every Colorado voter, Republican, Democrat, and Unaffiliated alike, deserves accessible and secure elections. As Secretary of State, I will always protect the integrity of our election system,” Griswold said in a statement. “These rules address emerging security risks and will reinforce Colorado’s national leadership in election security.”

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The new rules include guidance on creating images — or copies — of voting system equipment, a process that was at the center of investigations into the actions of two Republican county clerks. While Griswold found that Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Merlin Klotz’s alleged creation of an image backup did not pose a threat to the voting system, her office is still seeking information about Elbert County Clerk and Recorder Dallas Schroeder sharing copies of the system hard drive with two individuals.

Now, creating images of the voting system hard drive is prohibited without disclosure and prior approval from the secretary of state’s office.

Additionally, the new rules relate secure software updates on election devices, also known as a trusted build. Anyone present during a “trusted build” system update needs evidence of a successful background check, and the build itself needs to be conducted under video surveillance.

This rule is likely a response to the actions of Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters. The Republican, who has pushed conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and aligns herself with far-right activists, is under investigation for allowing an unauthorized person into a trusted build last year. Sensitive passwords were then posted on a far-right website and all election equipment in the county had to be decertified and replaced.

The new rules also clarify that anyone prohibited from having physical contact with voting equipment, such as an elected official or candidate, cannot even access a room with equipment in it unless accompanied by someone with authorized access.

There are also stricter requirements for election system password changes, a reduction in how many people can have administrative privileges for the election management system and a requirement for people who have access to the voting system equipment to sign an acceptable use policy. 

These rule changes are “immediately necessary for elections conducted in Colorado to continue to comply with state and federal law,” Griswold wrote in her statement of justification.

“Failure to adopt these rules immediately would be contrary to the public interest given the public’s right to secure elections guaranteed by the Colorado Constitution,” she wrote. “The quickly approaching 2022 statewide primary election, which will require the use of secure voting systems and the preservation of records for those systems in compliance with state and federal law, also requires the Department to adopt these rules immediately.”

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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