5 On Your Side

Voting in person? Here's what's different

Will voting in person be safe this year during the pandemic? Election organizers say yes, but the polling sites may look a bit different.

Posted Updated

Monica Laliberte
, WRAL executive producer/5 On Your Side reporter
SMITHFIELD, N.C. — Will voting in person be safe this year during the pandemic? Election organizers say yes, but the polling sites may look a bit different.

As with just about every location now, social distancing and sanitizing will be evident.

Every polling location during early voting and on Election Day will have at least 6 feet between voting booths and social distancing markings on the floor to assist people waiting in line. Protective gear also will be available for voters and poll workers.

The Johnston County Board of Elections has stack after stack of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and Clorox spray stored in a warehouse.

"We have an electrostatic sprayer that we purchased to disinfect each polling site," county elections director Leigh Anne Price said, noting that it sprays a fine mist to quickly disinfect large areas.

Price also showed off towering stacks of boxes of disposable face masks.

"We have gotten 96,000 face masks to provide to our precinct officials as well as to each voter that comes in to vote," she said.

According to Price, polling staff must wear masks and sneeze guards. Some will even wear gloves and face shields.

"We are going to take temperatures of the precinct officials that are at work every day," she said.

The supplies were distributed to county election boards from the State Board of Elections through the federal CARES Act.

Voters will enter polling places in one direction and leave in a different direction. Hand sanitizer stations will be posted at each entrance and exit, and booths will be sanitized after each use, although the cleaning process may slow down the voting process.

"They have to let that dry because you don’t want a ballot to come and sit and get wet, then it won’t go through the machine," said Price.

Voters will get a pen to mark their ballot, and it’s theirs to keep.

In Johnston County, the pens will replace the "I voted" stickers this year, Price said. Some counties will hand out both.

One thing that hasn’t changed: Voters will still feed their ballots into the machine.

"It’s not touched by the voter," said Price. "Their ballot just goes in and grabs it and then it just takes it on in."

The State Board of Elections says those who vote on touch-screen devices will be given a Q-Tip to use.

While a lot of extra measures are in place for safety, Price still encourages early voting options to cut down on crowds.

"If you could vote early at early voting sites and vote by mail, that will help a lot on Election Day," she said.

Early voting starts Thursday across North Carolina and runs through Oct. 31.

Price said that poll workers have back-up plans in case a polling site needs to close temporarily on Election Day because of COVID-19.


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