BY: MEREDITH DELISO, ABC NEWS
(NEW YORK) — Mask-wearing, social distancing and good hand hygiene will continue to play their part in minimizing COVID-19 risk as millions head to the polls during a global pandemic. But voters can also expect to encounter new protocols, tools and, in some cases, polling sites to help keep people safe.
“No one should have to choose between their fundamental right to vote and their health,” Hannah Klain, a fellow with the nonpartisan law and policy institute Brennan Center for Justice, told ABC News.
Here’s a look at some of the safety measures in play this election season.
Enabling social distancing
Social distancing will continue to be enforced at polling sites, such as through markers on the ground, to help keep voters spaced 6 feet apart while they wait in line to cast their ballot.
Experts advise that a long line may not mean a long wait time, just that the polling site is enforcing social distancing and managing crowd size.
Some counties, including in Texas, North Carolina and Nevada, are implementing online wait-time technology so you can see the anticipated wait at your polling site and avoid peak times.
Expanding car voting
Curbside voting is not a new practice, with states like Virginia offering the car service for elderly and disabled voters. It may be a more popular option this election in states and counties where it’s offered. Some states, including North Carolina, have expanded curbside voting to anyone who wants to use it.
This year, Harris County in Texas created a drive-thru voting option using portable voting machines to provide a “safer, socially-distant alternative to walk-in voting.” As of Wednesday, more than 70,000 voters had voted across 10 locations, according to the county clerk. Voters with disabilities are also eligible for curbside voting at all polling sites in the county, which includes Houston.
Stadiums as polling places
Madison Square Garden in New York, Fenway Park in Boston and Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, are just some of the stadiums debuting as polling places this election. The venues allow for ample social distancing, and, for those that are outdoors, optimal ventilation.
Plastic partitions at check-in are among the Bipartisan Policy Center and Cleveland Clinic’s recommendations for safe voting. And so far, plexiglass between voters and poll workers is a common sight at polling places across the country.
Plastic sheets between voting booths are also being installed at some polling sites to help protect voters.
Rethinking ballot markers
“Ballot-marking procedures should be established to minimize viral transmission,” the Brennan Center and the Infectious Diseases Society of America advised in their guidance for healthy in-person voting.
That might look like Q-tips, finger covers or other disposable devices. Harris County has opted for disposable plastic finger covers that voters can use while touching voting machines this election.
Voters may also want to bring their own supplies, such as a pen or stylus for touchscreen machines, the organizations recommend. Just make sure to verify with an election official before using your own supplies, they note.
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