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Colorado National Guard cyber security unit activated for presidential primary

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order activating the Colorado National Guard at the request of Secretary of State Jena Griswold for increased cybersecurity during next week’s presidential primary.

In 2018, Governor John Hickenlooper began activating the guard for election cybersecurity measures. Polis continued the practice in previous elections.

“The Colorado National Guard Cyber Task Force is a valued partner in the shared goal of keeping Colorado’s elections secure,” Griswold said in a statement. “These cybersecurity experts will work with our security professionals to help protect our support systems from cyber threat.”

Coloradans cast paper ballots, but the move helps secure support systems for elections. Colorado uses an online voter registration system. Voters can access it to update their information, but the system is protected in various ways.

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“Even with such security features, online voter registration systems could provide an avenue for cyber actors to gain unlawful access to voter registration databases,” Polis wrote in his executive order. “Outside of Colorado, voter registration databases have been compromised by cyber actors hacking into various systems. While cyber actors are unable to modify voter records, breaches could result in the release of voters’ personally identifiable information.”

Polis directed no less than six and up to nine unarmed members of the Colorado National Guard Cyber Operations Element to begin assistance and continue for up to 30 days. Colorado’s presidential primary is March 5 and ballots must be cast or returned by 7:00 p.m. that day.

“The exposure of voters’ personally identifiable information does not threaten the integrity of our State elections, but could undermine public confidence in the system and suppress voter registration,” Polis wrote in the order. “The Colorado National Guard Defensive Cyber Operations Element has unique cyber capabilities to assist in protecting critical election infrastructure.”

The presidential primary will attract national attention as the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Republican candidate and former President Donald Trump be removed from the ballot under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, the court ruled Trump's name could remain on the ballot if the case was appealed to and taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. Both sides argued their case February 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has yet to make a ruling in the case.