Dane Co. task force calls for improvements to ‘inadequate’ election infrastructure

A Dane County task force is highlighting election infrastructure, saying physical security in local offices, including that of elections officials, needs impro
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 6:23 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Dane County task force is highlighting election infrastructure, saying physical security in local offices, including that of elections officials, needs improvement.

In the 11-page report released Monday, the Dane Co. Election Security Review Committee said the structures for election administration are “inadequate for a function identified as ‘critical infrastructure,’” a term used by the Department of Homeland Security in 2017 to refer to elections processes.

“There has not been anything that has compromised the integrity of those structures yet, but the experience since 2020 raises the likelihood that that could happen in the future,” said Ken Mayer, chair of the task force and UW-Madison political science professor.

“The problem is once those threats occur or once that disruption occurs, it’s too late to do anything about it. The damage will have been done,” he said.

The report specifically cited the clerks’ offices for the county and the City of Madison, saying facilities storing election equipment and ballots don’t meet appropriate standards for “such a critical function.”

In 2016, flooding destroyed nearly 200 voting machines in Madison.

Mayer listed “best practices,” which include access control, CCTV, alarms, as well as fire and water detection and prevention systems. He called it “a suite of protections.”

Other committee members included Dane Co. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett, Madison Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl and Marshall Clerk Lindsey Johnson.

In the Marshall village hall, Johnson said entry points are covered with security cameras. Prior to the pandemic, before her office installed plexiglass barriers, Johnson said the public could reach her desk and potentially see sensitive information.

“We’ve had that happen before, where people are right in your face and leaning over the counter and putting [us] in a vulnerable position,” she said.

The committee also highlighted physical threats to clerks and their staff, saying these “undermine election integrity and pose a danger to those individuals engaged in the vital task of running elections.”

When the committee asked how Dane Co. clerks felt about their own safety or that of their staff in future elections, 70 percent of respondents said they were somewhat or very concerned.

“Anybody who comes in that’s enraged would have no problem getting through our building. That can translate to election results too,” Johnson said.

The committee did not make any specific budgetary requests. But Dane Co. Clerk Scott McDonell said he personally will be making a request for a secure, climate-controlled facility dedicated to storing all election equipment.

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