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Election Officials Call for Increased Security in Dane County, Wis.

A newly released report by the county’s Election Security Review Committee called the security around election equipment “inadequate” and also called out the “serious problem” of threats against election workers.

(TNS) — Describing the security of election equipment as "inadequate" and threats to elections workers as a "serious problem," a Dane County task force on Monday called for hardening the county's election infrastructure in the wake of a 2020 presidential election that many Republicans continue to falsely claim was tainted by systemic fraud or outright stolen.

A report by the nine-member Election Security Review Committee does not make specific recommendations for how much more should be spent or on what, although during a press conference held over Zoom, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said he'd like to see a dedicated climate-controlled building, with cameras and other security, to store voting machines and other equipment.

The committee also was not able to obtain specific figures from local or federal law enforcement on how many threats were made against the county's election workers or whether any of those were investigated and led to prosecutions.

But a survey of the county's municipal clerks found that 84% of respondents said threats against election officials have increased in recent years, with 70% saying they were at least "somewhat concerned" for their safety or the safety of their staffs and 78% saying they worried about being harassed over the phone or on the job. Fifty of the county's 62 clerks' offices responded to the survey.

Ken Mayer, a UW-Madison political science professor and chair of the committee, said the group decided early on that its focus would be on the physical safety of the elections process, noting that much past attention to election security has been on cybersecurity and information technology.

"The physical security of the process and the structures was also something that warranted a close look," he said. "What we found is that those structures are not adequate for a function that has been designated by the Department of Homeland Security as a critical infrastructure."

Citing security concerns, McDonell declined to go into detail about where election equipment is stored now or what security measures exist in those places but noted that the city of Madison has twice dealt with flooding at a basement storage location for election equipment at the Village on Park mall in south Madison. Those machines are now held at a first-floor private warehouse space, he said, and machines used throughout the county are often stored in areas accessible to more than just elections workers.

Mayer said clerks' physical offices are often quite old and not set up to handle the "degree of responsibilities that clerks have had to assume over the past 10 to 15 years," such as IT security and administrative processes related to things like absentee-by-mail and early voting.

In light of threats to local clerks, better security at clerks' offices could include things such as barriers between workers and the public and video monitoring, the reports says.

"Access to the staff is quite easy," said McDonell, who has visited all 62 clerks' offices. "That needs to change."


  • Conduct regular surveys of municipal clerks to gauge concerns about their safety and the safety of their staffs.
  • Improve security at clerks' offices, such as with video surveillance and barriers between staff and the public.
  • Local governments and clerks should develop plans for responding to threats, work with law enforcement to monitor potential threats, and complete de-escalation training.
  • Prior to the 2024 general election, Dane County and Madison clerk functions should be placed in a dedicated facility equipped with proper security measures and fire- and water-detection equipment.

©2022 The Wisconsin State Journal, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.