Safety at the polls has always been a number one priority. This election season, however, protecting polling staff and voters from exposure from the global pandemic COVID-19 is a safety challenge no one would have predicted a year ago. With November 3rd less than 6 weeks away, now is the time to start implementing an electoral preparedness plan for safe voting at the polls.
Why Social Distancing at the Polls is Necessary
On November 3rd, millions of Americans will head to their respective polling stations, walk inside and cast their vote. All it takes for COVID-19 to spread is for one infected person to spread their germs to others, whether it be through physical contact, contaminated surfaces, or breathing in airborne particles. This increased risk of exposure must be met with the right social distancing and sanitary measures. Knowing what it means to social distance and the importance of following social distancing guidelines will be an integral part of creating safe and healthy polling stations across the country.
Encourage Social Distancing At The Polls
The CDC wasted no time offering considerations for creating safe election polling locations in regards to COVID-19. From scattered voting periods to reduce the number of voters at polling locations, to hygiene and social distancing supplies, here’s a list of strongly recommended safety and sanitary precautions polling locations all over the country can implement.
Poll Worker Education
Knowledge is power, and having the right knowledge for preventing the spread of COVID-19 will be invaluable to your poll workers this election. Plan and prepare for poll workers to stay home if they don’t feel well, or if they’ve recently come in contact with someone who has COVID-19. Be sure to have adequate staff on standby. Let your staff know the CDC criteria for returning to work if they’ve either been sick with COVID-19, have been in recent contact with a person with COVID-19, or have tested positive for COVID-19.
Promote Healthy Behaviors
Promote healthy behaviors like mask wearing, handwashing and proper hygiene for poll workers and voters alike. More than likely, proper handwashing won’t be an option at most polling stations. Instead, place hand sanitizer stations filled with sanitizer composed of (at least) 60% alcohol at every entry, exit and voting station.
Wall, window and door signs posted in highly visible locations at entry points and throughout polling locations remind voters to mask up and maintain a social distance of at least six feet upon entering the building. Informational signs put out by the CDC help spread truthful information about the spread of germs and COVID-19 while reducing the spread of disinformation.
Sneeze guards provide an effortless protective barrier between poll workers and voters who must be in the same room. For the best protection, be sure to follow sneeze guard requirements and height regulations when placing sneeze guards at voting booths areas where poll workers and voters must interact. Section off socially distanced voting boots or seating areas with social distancing fixture strips designed to restrict specific areas from general use.
Shop our complete selection of polling station social distancing signage and sneeze guards.
Maintain a Healthy Environment
Disinfect areas within the voting location frequently touched by poll workers and voters. The voting machine, for instance, should be disinfected after every use according to the equipment manufacturer’s instructions. Encourage poll workers to wash their hands often and always cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Provide poll workers adequate tissues, face coverings, paper towels and hand sanitizer they can use when hand washing is not readily available.
Replace frequently touched supplies like pens, pencils and ballot activation cards. If voters with disabilities require headphones, replace or disinfect between each use. Use touch-free trash cans and place disinfectant wipes around polling locations for easy access. Wipe down door knobs and other frequently touched surfaces as much as possible. If possible, restrict the use of restrooms for voters and routinely disinfect and clean restrooms for poll workers to safely use.
Proper air circulation is extremely important. Be sure your ventilation systems are operating as they should and allow the circulation of outdoor air as much as possible while still maintaining a safe and secure polling location.
Implement a crowd and line management system to keep lines and loitering to a minimum. Social distancing floor signs with “stand here” or “one way” messages make it easy for voters to maintain an appropriate social distance and guide them on the right path into and out of the voting location.
Stagger or Prolong Voting Periods
Limit the number of voters you allow in and outside of the voting location by staggering voting times, increasing the hours your polling location is open, offering a drive-up voting option (if allowed in your jurisdiction) or encouraging voters to visit your location at off-peak times. Increase the distance between voting booths and ensure there is sufficient space for social distancing with the set number of voters and workers you’re allowing into the location at one time. As always, ensure the social distancing restrictions in place do not limit the ability to vote for disabled or at-risk voters.
The polls will look different this year than in years past. For this reason, we recommend reminding voters in advance the new changes, procedures and precautions put in place to keep them safe and healthy this election. Encourage them to bring their own pens and confirm their voter registration information is correct prior to coming to the polling location. With the right safety protocols for polling stations in place we all can play a part of stopping the spread of COVID-19 at the polls.