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Duval elections chief: Voting will look, feel different today

Presidential Preference Primary in Florida goes on as planned despite outbreak

News4JAX Reporter Zac Lashway joins us from the Duval County Election Center to talk with Mike Hogan, the Supervisor of Elections, who wants to reassure voters that it is safe to vote.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite ongoing concerns over the new coronavirus, the presidential primary in Florida will take place as planned Tuesday.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

But Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan said voters should expect that things will look and feel different at their polling place as workers make every effort to ensure the environment is safe and healthy.

“Every surface that is touched by the public will be sanitized. We also have hand sanitizer and wipes. But we encourage the voters to bring their own sanitizer and wipes -- and be prepared to vote in a different environment,” Hogan told News4Jax on Tuesday, about an hour before polls opened.

Hogan wanted to assure voters that everything possible is being done but also asked voters to be ready to approach the voting process differently than they might be used to.

“There are risks for everybody. There are risks for my workers and risks for the voters. As it relates to this virus, anybody could be contagious, we don’t know,” he stressed, adding that they are following all the guidelines from the CDC. “But you are not walking into a doctor’s office, and poll workers are not health care workers, so we have minimized contact to the best of our ability.”

He said secrecy sleeves might not be provided and asked for the public’s help with social distancing -- staying at least 6 feet away from each other -- and be patient.

“We just can’t pack these rooms,” Hogan said. “There will only be so many allowed in a room at a time.”

Hogan also emphasized the need to double check your polling location before you head out to vote, because some locations had to be moved away from assisted living facilities or for other reasons.

He said they worked to get in touch with all the voters who normally vote at those relocated polling places but in case anyone didn’t get the message, workers will be at the old precinct to direct voters to the correct one.

In Clay County, Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless told News4Jax that there are a lot of precautions being taken to keep everyone who goes out to vote safe. He said cleaning will be happening throughout the day to limit any potential spread of germs.

“Individuals will come into a polling location that continues to be sanitized throughout the day. They will receive the ballot. They will go to the booth -- again, sanitized throughout the day. They will go put it in the tabulator and receive that vaunted ‘I voted’ sticker,” Chambless said. “I think voters can expect to find polling locations cleaner than most places in Clay County.”

Chambless said roughly 15% have early voted so far in Clay County, which is on par for a normal presidential preference primary, and he thinks Tuesday’s numbers will not be abnormally low.

In St. Johns County, Precinct 306, located at Coquina Crossing Community Center, has been moved to Good News Church at 1357 Wildwood Dr. in St. Augustine.

According to St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes will be provided at all voting locations for use by poll workers and voters, and workers will be cleaning surfaces on a regular basis.

Arizona and Illinois are also proceeding with their presidential primaries scheduled for Tuesday.

Elsewhere, Ohio’s health director was set to order polls closed just hours before they were to open there. Georgia already postponed next week’s primary, and Louisiana has postponed its scheduled April 4 primary.

About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.