Voting safety measures amid the pandemic
Voting in-person is just like any other activity or decision people make during a global pandemic, there is a risk.
“There is a risk,” Elkhart County Clerk Christopher Anderson said. “There’s always a risk in the day and age in which we’re living.”
Both Indiana and Michigan’s Secretary of State took steps to even the odds.
In the Hoosier state, the Secretary of State spent $1.3 million to roll out PPE—including masks, gloves, sneeze guards and hand sanitizer. All of that equipment went to county poll workers.
As for Michigan, $2 million was spent on PPE and some counties throughout both states had some extra supplies left over from the local primaries back in August.
Each county was also able to use a portion of their budget to purchase inexpensive items, such as disposable pencils and Q-tips that voters can use to fill out ballots or touch screens.
“What they’ll notice is they’ll have a pencil that they’ll take and they’ll throw it in the box when they’re done,” Lincoln Charter Township Clerk Stacy Loar-Porter said. “You’ll notice there’s plexiglass, there’s more hand sanitizer and this is the one where they’ll be able to hold their ID up for the person to make their voter verification without anybody touching it. So, they’ll look at their photo ID to make sure that they are who they are.”
At the next station, voters will receive their actual ballots and secrecy envelopes.
“And this is where they’ll be able to hold up their license and we’ll use the scanner to scan the driver’s license so there’s no touch,” Loar-Porter said.
Masks will also be made available for voters, according to Loar-Porter.
“We did a survey after the last August election to see if there’s anything we could do better to make them feel safer,” Loar-Porter said. “And they, you know, gave us some great ideas. We feel confident that they’re going to be okay and do a great job and, you know, we’re all hands-on deck and ready to go at this point.”
All hands are on deck in Elkhart, too.
“I think Elkhart county is in a pretty good place,” Anderson said.
Elkhart County received over 27,000 face masks, 500 hand sanitizer dispensers and hundreds of other disinfectant bottles.
The county also spent county money to get extra tools as a precaution.
“A lot of it came down to this is what we need to do and this is what we need to spend and this is what we need to get,” Anderson said.
The safety measures in Elkhart are not much different than safety measures anywhere else, according to Anderson.
“There will be hand sanitizer, if a voter doesn’t have a mask, we will have disposable masks, Anderson said. “There will be social distancing reminders on the floor, on the walls.”
Everything will be sanitized from the tables to the sneeze guards with disinfectant spray and microfibers towels. Voters can also just hold their ID up to the shield.
“And that way the poll worker’s not handling it, the voter’s handling their ID,” Anderson said.
In rural areas of Michiana, the precautions are relatively the same.
Pulaski County has just over 9,000 registered voters and they are expecting a large turnout as well.
Pulaski County received more than 3,300 face masks, dozens of hand sanitizer dispensers and a couple dozen bottles of disinfectant spray.
The numbers might not seem like a lot, but Pulaski County Clerk, JoLynn Behny, said the county has all of the supplies needed.
“So I’m confident we’ll have everybody taken care of—the voters and the poll workers,” Behny said.
The county plans to follow the same precautions as Elkhart and Berrien counties with social distancing markers, hand sanitizer, masks and face shields.
For Behny, this is her first presidential election.
“So anything could go wrong, because I mean anything can,” Behny said. “We know 100% more going into the November election than we did in the June election, so I feel a lot more confident.”
“I’m pleading with the voters to help us mitigate,” Anderson said.
Poll workers are required to wear masks on Election Day and county workers are asking voters to do the same, hoping that everyone masking up will bring the risk down and make everyone more comfortable on Election Day.
“Be patient, be kind and be understanding of the whole situation,” Behny said.
Each clerk said they received so much PPE that they expect to have left over equipment even after the election.
As for where the PPE will go, that is still up in the air.
Indiana officials are trying to decide whether the leftover PPE should go to local health departments, schools or other resources.