Election Security Spotlight – Supply Chain Management

What It Is

Supply chain management is the discipline of managing the flow of goods and services, beginning with raw materials all the way to providing the finished product to customers. Election officials must consider supply chain management as they plan for elections each year. They rely heavily on several vendors and different products to run an election, and many of those products are proprietary or difficult to obtain. As a result, election officials must plan to ensure that supplies are obtained prior to Election Day.

Why It Matters

The date of an election is not going to change despite any extenuating circumstances. Regardless of whether election officials have procured all supplies necessary for an election, including ballot paper, parts, and materials for ballot marking devices and scanners, “I Voted” stickers, etc., an election will take place. For this reason, election officials must start planning far in advance of Election Day. As part of this process, they need to commit to understanding and addressing the potential risks associated with supply chain management.

What You Can Do

If you have not already started planning for the 2024 General Election or are still in the process of planning, here are some recommendations for addressing election-related supply chain management issues:

  • Plan ahead and order early. Decide what supplies you need, and order as early as possible.
  • Assess if there are any security concerns you need to address. As part of making security a priority, consider the origin of all parts and supplies you will need, from raw materials to delivery. Upon delivery, verify there is no evidence of tampering or destruction. Ensure that you receive exactly what you ordered.
  • Assess the cybersecurity concerns you need to address. Consider the cybersecurity precautions taken by providers handling your critical election data or systems, such as ballot printers or providers hosting election systems. Ensure that the providers you rely on make cybersecurity a priority.
  • Be cognizant of factors that may affect production and delivery of necessary supplies. As an example, recognize the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on obtaining supplies for the 2020 General Election. Though factors may not rise to the level of a pandemic, such factors can have an impact on the production of supplies, transportation of goods for delivery, increased costs, workforce impacts, etc. 
  • Build in resilience by having contingency plans in place. Establish relationships with multiple vendors to reduce the risk of a sole vendor becoming a single point of failure if that vendor is unable to provide the supplies you need. Obtain pricing, understand the ordering process, learn the lead time required for the order to arrive on time, and seek out any other necessary information you require to help make your election a success. Emergencies such as flood, fire, etc. that prevent vendors from being operational can happen. By putting backup options in place, you can build resilience into your elections planning.

For more information, please review CISA’s Supply Chain Risks to Election Infrastructure document at https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/supply-chain-risks-to-election-infrastructure_508.pdf. In addition, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) provides guidance regarding measures that were necessary given the paper supply chain issues in 2022. To get started on creating a policy for managing your vendors, please consult the Service Provider Management Policy Template for CIS Control 15.

Please contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions.