WARWICK, RI - Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea convened elections officials from every city and town to participate in Rhode Island's first-ever elections tabletop exercise to better prepare them for challenges they may face on Election Day.
"As elections officials, it is our job to ensure that the voting experience in Rhode Island is smooth and without delay," Secretary Gorbea said. "We know that the security of our elections is not a destination but rather a continuous process of assessment, improvement of our systems and mitigation of risk. This simulation will help officials identify and mitigate potential risks before they occur."
Modeled after Harvard University's Belfer Center Tabletop Exercise (TTX), Rhode Island's tabletop simulated an entire election day over the course of 60 minutes. Participants were placed into four groups and assigned a role of state election official, city/town election official, or a polling place election official. Throughout the hour, participants faced issue causing scenarios called "injects" and asked to make what they thought were the best decisions available. Those decisions then resulted in varying scenarios for participants to face.
Sample injects ranged from operational issues to cyberthreats:
• A poll worker is unable to start up the voting machine. • The electronic poll book vendor requests a password in case any issues arise on Election Day. • There is a bomb scare at a polling place. • Bad weather disrupts power at a polling place. • A thumb drive is found on the floor of a polling place.
At the end of the tabletop, participants convened for a debriefing to go over some of the lessons learned during the worst-case Election Day simulation.
"The tabletop simulation provided an opportunity for the elections community to further prepare for the 2018 elections," said Tracy Nelson, Newport Canvassing Board Clerk. "By placing elections officials in unfamiliar circumstances, we gain the experience that allows us to better adapt to potential issues on Election Day. I want to thank Secretary Gorbea and her team at the Department of State for coordinating this event."
"These types of simulations are common practice in the military and among emergency responders for a reason," Secretary Gorbea said. "By facing high-pressure scenarios ahead of time, elections officials will be better prepared to deal with a variety of issues that may arise during an actual election. I want to thank the Rhode Island Board of Elections and local city and town officials for participating in this simulation ahead of the 2018 elections."