Election Security Spotlight – Physical Security Tips

Overview of Enhancing Physical Security at Election Offices

In preparation for any election, you as an election official must focus on the physical security of your office. The goal of physical security is to protect your office and everything in it, including your staff and critical infrastructure. Evaluating the physical security of your election office includes assessing the entire space and/or buildings and surrounding areas. Implementing a few physical security measures can mitigate risk and bolster your office’s resilience against the changing threat landscape.

Why It Matters

Implementing physical security measures in your election office is important because it protects your staff and your equipment from threats. If an unauthorized person gains access to a restricted area of your building, the integrity of your election data may be compromised. Amid a busy election year, you do not want to be forced to defend your process because proper physical security measures were not taken.

Your staff is your most valuable asset. The elections community is relatively small and is comprised of knowledgeable professionals with the skills necessary to conduct successful elections. Keeping your staff safe at work is imperative, especially during major election years when emotions tend to run high and conflicts can occur.

What You Can Do

Here are a few physical security tips to consider:

  • Cover points of entry with a camera. It is crucial to be aware of your surroundings. It is recommended that you have at least two cameras  First, have a camera inside of the building that faces the entryway of your office. This allows you to see who walks in the office space or building. Second, have a camera outside of the building that covers the area adjacent to the loading door or dock. This allows you to see if there is any danger in the area prior to exiting the office. If cameras are cost-prohibitive, install 180-degree view peepholes on any solid door (e.g., back doors, etc.). This provides an alternate, less inexpensive way to remain aware of your surroundings.
  • Upgrade lighting on the outside of the building. It is important to have a clear view when you step outside of your office, especially when you leave work late at night on the days leading up to and on election night. Ensure that there are no dark spots around your office. If you are using incandescent or fluorescent lighting, it is recommended that you upgrade to LED light bulbs. LED lighting is more energy-efficient while also providing better visibility.
  • Install panic alarms. Panic alarms should be installed where people actually work. Such areas include any common or customer service area in the office, the director’s office, and your equipment storage area. The panic alarm should connect directly to 911 dispatch for the quickest response time, not to your security system company.
  • Upgrade locks and strike plates. It is recommended that you have one room within your office that has a very secure, metal-clad door. This can serve as a safe space that employees could retreat to in the event of an intruder. Basic residential or contractor-grade doors and strike plates are not very strong and could be kicked through fairly easily.
  • Install a barrier between employees and the public space. Though it can be costly, there should be a barrier between employees and the public. This can be in the form of framed plexiglass, if nothing else. This barrier essentially provides a 10-second head start for employees to run and take cover if an intruder enters the office.

If you do not know where to start with physical security in your office, please contact your CISA Physical Security Advisor (PSA). A PSA will gladly come to your office, at no cost, to do a walkthrough and provide specific recommendations, as all offices are different. The security measures above are a few of the most common recommendations made by a PSA. If you do not have money in your budget for physical security improvements, there are both no-cost and low-cost ways to better secure your office. For more information on physical security, please see CISA’s publication Election Security – Physical Security of Voting Locations and Election Facilities.

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