Election Season is upon us! It’s time to adapt the election process to what we have learned from all our social distancing efforts in the workplace, restaurants, and schools. As states, cities, and towns are preparing for elections, here are 10 considerations that are trending for election polling locations and voter safety.
Suggestion #1: Keep the Traffic Flow Moving!
Elections with in-person voting on a single day are higher risk for COVID-19 spread, of larger crowds and longer wait times. Focus your plan for this day around a simplified single-direction traffic flow with ample personal protective practices and disinfecting solutions. Modify the polling location layout to allow social distancing and discuss plans to avoid bottlenecks in traffic flow, such as single doors for entry and exit.
Suggestion #2: Separating Booths
Social distancing is mandatory and seems like a simple concept but remember we could be dealing with limited space indoors. Identify larger facilities for use as future polling places with enough room to create at least six feet of space between voting booths.
Suggestion #3: Consider Multiple Sites and Extended Hours
The smaller number of booths in one location necessitated by social distancing requirements will lead to a reduced number of voters able to vote at once, causing longer lines and increased risk. Adding additional locations, days to vote, or extended hours will help lower the number of voters in one polling place at the same time.
Suggestion #4: Polling Safety Starts from the Outside-In
Post signs in highly-visible locations. Mesh banners or decals can be used at entrances and exits, and free-standing signage can assist in managing crowd control. Use signage as last minute-reminders to promote protective measures, such as wearing a mask or sanitizing their hands, to help keep your staff and other voters safe.
Suggestion #5: Use Floor Markings to Encourage Social Distancing
Now that we are nearly half a year into social distancing it seems as if some have slipped into a bout of social distancing laziness when waiting in line at a grocery store or coffee shop. Using floor decals is a vital way to ensure your voters will stay the recommended 6 feet apart and not fall into such habits.
Suggestion #6: Provide Single-Use Items
The CDC advises considering practices that reduce exposure to touched surfaces. Where possible, replace shared objects, like pens or ballot activation cards, with single-use objects. Do you have the time to disinfect a pen each time a voter picks it up? We need to keep voters moving!
Suggestion #7: Keep Your Registration Employees Safe!
Physical barriers, such as acrylic or polycarbonate shields, can be used to protect workers and voters when physical distance cannot be maintained at registration desks or even in between voting stations. Provide extra individually wrapped disposable face masks for voters or staff.
Suggestion #8: Provide Sanitizer Stands at Every Checkpoint!
Regardless of what method your city or town is using for voting – electronic or hand written – voters should be instructed to use hand sanitizer before and after their voting session, picking up stickers, or passing through entrances and exits.
Suggestion #9: Consider Alcohol Sanitizing Wipes!
The CDC recommends 70% Alcohol wipes as an effective product to fight against the spread of COVID-19. Consider this alternative due to worldwide constraint on disinfecting wipes! Remember the basics of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting by checking out one of our previous articles.
Suggestion #10: Procure Your PPE for Elections As Soon As Possible!
County Boards of Election should not wait in the procurement of PPE (gloves, masks, sanitizer, wipes, disinfectants, gowns, shields, etc.) in order to have them ready for early voting, election day, and throughout the canvassing process.
The CDC does not have specific guidance for what would be considered adequate PPE and supplies within the community. CDC has developed a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Burn Rate Calculator for use in healthcare settings to track use of PPE and estimate how long supplies may last that may be helpful for tracking in community settings.
Check out our Election Checklist for more information!
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Considerations for Election Polling Locations and Voters”, Center for Disease Control & Prevention, 22 June 2020, (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/election-polling-locations.html) Accessed 27 August 2020.