TUCSON, Ariz. (CBS, KYMA/KECY) - For the first time ever, the Department of Homeland Security is giving out grants, specifically for election protection, and Pima County leaders are set to approve such a grant Tuesday.
It was a scary time for the Maricopa County elections workers following the 2020 election. While counting the votes inside, large protests were taking place outside.
Some protestors actually walked into the elections offices where votes were being counted and had to be led out by sheriff's deputies. Against that backdrop, Pima County is preparing for 2024.
"We've seen this is multiple elections where you have masses of people showing up and protesting and even like threatening or threatening to harm these public servants, which is absolutely unconscionable," said Matt Heinz of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
Small amount, big changes
The Department of Homeland Security is giving the county a grant of a bit more than $54,000 to make the Elections Department more secure. A small amount, but big changes.
Under the grant, the county will install bars on the windows in the Recorders Office. Windows which lead into the area where signatures are verfied and ballots sorted.
It will add bulletproof glass in the Elections Department door which leads to the public viewing area where all the ballots are placed in the machines for counting.
It will add cameras to cover what are now blind spots for the workers, and install monitors so workers can see the parking lot and lobbies in real time.
"If this provides our employees any modicum of reassurance that they feel more protected, they have a big job to do and just want them to do thier job and feel comfortable doing it," said Adelita Grijalva of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
Protecting actual elections offices
Many elections workers and elections directors have resigned recently because of threats to themselves and their families. So, the upgrades are not just to make them feel safer, but to keep them on the job.
"Our employees have to feel safe and we've had, across the nation, Elections Department get targeted in different cities, and we're not expecting that in Pima County and we don't want that," Grijalva expressed.
County elected leaders have provided more security in the process in recent years to protect vote centers, casting a ballot, the transfer of ballots, but this is a first to protect the actual elections offices.