In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, poll workers should be provided additional training on measures to ensure their health and safety, and the health and safety of voters, observers, and members of the public.

COVID-19 and You

  • Knowing When You are Sick

    It’s important to for poll workers to know when they are sick, and to stay home if they are not feeling well or have any symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses. Poll workers should stay home if you have any of the following: frequent cough, fever, difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and/or recent loss of taste or smell. In addition poll workers should stay home if they or someone they live with has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

    Poll workers should be provided with the contact information of the inspector of their assigned polling location in the event the poll worker is sick and is unable to serve as a poll worker.

  • Staying Healthy Prior to Service

    Poll workers should be informed that there are many things they can do at home to prevent them and others from becoming sick. These include:

    • Self-screening including temperature and symptom checks.
    • Seeking medical attention if the symptoms become severe, including persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, or bluish lips or face.
    • Frequent handwashing, scrubbing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Using hand sanitizer with at least 70% isopropyl alcohol when hand washing with soap and water is not an option.
    • Practicing physical distancing of at least 6 feet both at work and away from work.
    • Avoiding touching of your eyes, nose, or mouth.
    • Wearing a face covering over your mouth and nose when you go out.

Election Workers & COVID-19

  • Once inside the polling place, there are many precautions that poll workers should take to keep themselves and others as safe as possible. These precautions include:
    • Practicing physical distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from other election workers, voters, and observers.
    • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
    • Wearing a face covering.
    • Washing or sanitizing your hands frequently, including upon arrival at the polling location, after using the restroom, after blowing your nose or sneezing, after eating, and before leaving the polling location.

Organizing Voting Sites for Health and Safety

  • Polling Location Setup and Traffic Flow

    When setting up the polling location, careful consideration must be given for placement of stations and equipment to minimize close contact and keep people in their own “air space.” This can be done primarily through physical distancing.

    Polling locations should be configured to ensure people can remain 6 feet apart from one another, when standing or moving. An element critical to making this happen is creating a one-way circuit that traffic flows around.

    • The first place voters will go is check-in, so this station should be near or at the entrance. If there is room, some portion of the line may be inside, but keeping lines in larger atriums or even outside (weather permitting) may be safer.
      • Check-in stations should be 6 feet from each other.
    • From the check-in stations, voters next go to a voting booth. Booths should be placed 6 feet apart, and also 6 feet from the check-in stations and the scanner.
      • Voting booths should be placed more deeply into the room, continuing the circular flow of traffic.
      • Some sites with very limited space may receive plexiglass or partitions, which can block direct air flow between voting booths. The purpose is to allow you to set up booths closer than 6 feet from each other, which still have their own separate air space.
    • The final station for most voters will be the scanner, which should be near an exit, ideally a different doorway than the entrance, or on the opposite side of the entrance from the check-in stations.
  • Physical Distancing and Visual Cues

    Visual cues should be added to encourage people to stay at least 6 feet from each other.

    • Floor markings should show stopping points in lines and in front of stations. Markings should be places on the floor before the entrance to the room so that voters stand 6 feet from each other while they are waiting to enter the polling room.
    • Colored tape can indicate routes from one area to another, so voters recognize the best path that keeps them away from others.
    • Furniture can guide voters to best paths (for instance, using a table to block those who just cast their ballot from exiting via the entrance.)

     

    The goal of physical distancing is to keep people far enough apart that they’re less likely to inhale air someone else breathed out.

  • Ventilation

    Fresh air is also helpful in combating the virus, so maximizing ventilation by keeping doors and windows open is a healthy option where possible.

  • Cleaning and Disinfecting

    Poll workers must be provided guidance relating to their duties of cleaning and disinfecting the polling location. The elections official should provide a schedule of duties for the poll workers at the polling location, and must ensure that the necessary cleaning and disinfecting supplies are readily available

    Poll workers should be guided to routinely disinfect commonly used surfaces, before voting begins and regularly throughout the day. Commonly used surfaces can include door handles, pens and/or styluses, activation cards, and voting booths and equipment. Specific instructions from the vendor or manufacturer of the voting equipment must be provided to ensure the voting equipment is not damaged in any way.

    Poll workers will need to monitor cleaning and disinfecting supply inventory, and notify the precinct inspector if they foresee running out.

Handling Voters Safely

There are several key points where election workers interact with voters at the polling location, including upon arrival, at check-in, and while moving throughout the routine voting process. In addition, there will be critical points of interaction, and special processes, when assisting voters with special requirements, such as curbside voters and voters not wearing a face covering. With the new challenges of physical distancing and ensuring the polling location is as safe as possible for all, it is important that safety and clear communications be at the forefront of all of our interactions.

The first stop for voters, and maybe point of closest contact, will be check-in. Poll workers should minimize proximity by asking the voter to remain 6 feet away, and only step forward when procedures require. The poll worker should ask the voter to use hand sanitizer, and should not provide the voter with a ballot until the hand sanitizer has dried.

When the voter has their ballot, the poll worker should direct them to their ballot booth and indicate a path that keeps them distanced from other voters. The poll worker should also indicate the appropriate path from the voting booth to the ballot scanner, or to the poll worker who will receive the voted ballot.

If there is a line, the poll worker should remind the voter to keep a distance of 6 feet between them and the next voter in line, and to stand on any floor markings to maintain distance indicating a distance of 6 feet.

In the event a voter needs assistance, the poll worker should maintain proper distance while the issue is being addressed.

When the voter is finished marking their ballot, the poll worker should ask the voter to insert their own ballot into the scanner.

Prior to the voter leaving the polling location, the poll worker should place an “I voted” sticker, if available on a surface where the voter can pick it up without touching the other sticker. The poll worker should then ask the voter to use hand sanitizer again, and then direct the voter to the best exit.

Voters Without Face Coverings

A voter may enter the polling location without a face covering. Many will be forgetful, or at any rate willing to use a face covering, so poll workers should be provided with simple messages that can help:

 

Poll workers should communicate to other poll workers that a voter without a face covering will be checking in, and it is recommended that another poll worker is present when communicating with a voter without a face covering.

Poll workers should send the voter to a check-in station that has the most distance between it and other stations. If that station is not available, the poll worker should ask the voter to stand to the side while it becomes free. It is important to have as little interaction with the voter during this time as possible. After checking in, the voter can be sent to a voting booth at an appropriate distance from other booths.

Poll workers must be aware that other voters may try to talk to the voter, which could escalate the situation. The poll worker can calm the situation by stressing to other voters that their health and safety is very important.

These situations will be challenging, because tempers may rise on both sides. Elections officials should provide role-playing ahead of time, which may help you keep things calm at the polling location. The role-playing may help the poll worker maintain a level head, de-escalate a situation by calming an angry voter, and remember procedures for seeking additional support if necessary.

Poll workers should have phone numbers for the next level of authority (building security or law enforcement) handy--keyed in beforehand. In addition, poll workers can agree ahead of time on a way to ask for back-up. For instance, asking a fellow election worker “Is John here?” where no one named John is working can be an agreed phrase for a call to security or law enforcement.

Election Observers

As in all elections, observers must be accommodated. Space should be made for observation, while allotting for 6 feet of physical distancing.

Observers will need to be able to view check-ins and scanning, and may periodically ask to look at the voting equipment used in the polling location. However, to promote health and safety, interaction between observers and others in the polling location should be minimized.

Poll workers should be instructed that observers must wear a face covering, maintain physical distancing and observe all health guidelines at the particular polling location. If an observer refuses to respect the rules, the precinct inspector must notify the office of the county elections official for further action.