Elections officials taking coronavirus precautions for voting during Florida, Georgia primaries

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office still looking at a high voter turnout despite virus fears

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands of voters will be heading to the polls for Florida’s presidential primary March 17, but there is a concern that the new coronavirus could keep some away, especially the elderly who are being asked to avoid large crowds because of the threat of the virus.

In Georgia, voters will be heading to the polls during the state’s primary March 24, and there are options available for people who want to avoid the crowds (scroll down to read).

News4Jax on Tuesday talked to voters casting ballots at the Highlands Regional Library on Jacksonville’s Northside, including Catherine Hurte, who said she is well aware of what is going on with the virus.

“Yes, it is a concern, but you still have a citizen’s duty, so you do what you need to do,” Hurte said.

Elections officials are hoping that attitude sticks with other voters. They are taking precautions and wiping down voting equipment with sanitized wipes each hour. There are also buckets of sanitized wipes available to voters to wipe down the booths and wipe down the pens.

THE LATEST | Coronavirus Special Section

Robert Phillips, chief elections assistant for the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office, does not believe the virus will have a big impact on turnout.

“We are still looking at a 42% to 44% turnout. We will see as we get through this last week of early voting and, hopefully, we’ll have a good day on Election Day,” Phillips said.

Right now, Duval County election officials have a ways to go to meet that prediction. As of Tuesday afternoon, the turnout was at 8.9%, with more than 29,000 who have voted by mail and nearly 27,000 who have early voted.

EARLY VOTING IN FLORIDA | Where, when to cast primary ballots

Other voters are also well aware of what is happening with virus but the concern seemed to be minimal.

"I guess, if there were more cases in Jacksonville and in Florida, I would be concerned, but I’m not really concerned right now. I’m not really nervous about it,” voter Regina Morris said.

Voter Beth Burns said: “I wash hands, I do precautions and I live my life.”

St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes said she hopes the virus does not keep people away and is hoping for a 50% turnout. The Clay County Supervisor of Elections Office is taking precautions and telling voters to just use good common sense.

Options available for Georgia voters during virus concerns

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Tuesday reminded Georgia residents that early voting and absentee ballots are ways to avoid crowds and minimize possible exposure to COVID-19.

RELATED | Early voting in Georgia presidential primary underway

The Secretary of State’s elections officials said they are in close contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Georgia’s Coronavirus Task Force. Using that input, the Secretary of State’s Office distributed information to the counties on ways to sanitize touchscreen voting machines, check-in poll pads and other equipment.

Each county’s poll workers and voters are encouraged to thoroughly wash their hands frequently.

Counties are also urged to call up extra poll workers in case there any are unable to work on Election Day.

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