JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – At precincts across Florida on Tuesday, keeping people voters and poll workers safe from the potential spread of coronavirus was a priority.
At precincts visited by News4Jax during the day, there was no trouble social distancing as there were few lines or crowds. At many polling places, there were more sign wavers outside than voters inside voting.
Record numbers of voters decided to cast their ballots by mail, likely keeping the crowds at in-person sites smaller while total turnout was above 20% by 5 p.m. in most Northeast Florida counties.
Those choosing to vote in person on primary day at one of Jacksonville’s busiest precincts said they felt safe.
“Everything was done (by) the (CDC) protocol,” voter Beth Parvin said.
But not everyone chose to wear a mask, which is their right as adding that as a requirement could be perceived as an infringement to voting.
“I think people having to wear a mask is an infringement on our personal liberties,” Raymur Rachels said. “And I think this is all a totally media-driven conspiracy. “Let’s get back to normalcy.”
Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee said during a news conference Tuesday that election supervisors in all 67 counties had reported that polling stations were open and well-equipped.
“Supervisors have taken health precautions to keep others and election workers and safe and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Lee said.
She also said she had contacted the U.S. Postal Service to make sure ballots in the mail would be expedited. Those arriving after 7 p.m. Tuesday will not be counded.
Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan had announced the following protocols would be in place for workers:
- Prescreening on election Day – Workers will answer a series of questions to make sure they are healthy and ready to work.
- Face shields, hand sanitizer and surface wipes – Workers will be provided with these cleaning and personal protective materials.
- Cleansing instructions – Workers will be instructed to wash their hands often.
- Cleaning personnel – An additional worker was hired for each of Duval County’s 199 precincts whose job will be to sanitize and clean all contact surfaces, including voting booths.
- Spacing – Voting booths will be spaced to complement our social distancing efforts.
- Social distancing reminders – All voters will be encouraged to stay mindful of social distancing guidelines.
Hogan shared the procedures to protect voters as well, including:
- Masks and hand sanitizer – Both masks and hand sanitizer will be available to voters
- Cleaning – All surfaces touched by voters will be cleaned.
- Single-use secrecy sleeves – Secrecy Sleeves used for ballots will be used only once.
- ID presentation – Voters will experience a nearly “touchless” identification presentation process.