Local Politics

Wake County election official removed from voting site after refusing to wear a mask

Posted November 2, 2021 1:04 p.m. EDT
Updated November 5, 2021 10:58 a.m. EDT

— A precinct judge was removed from a polling site on Tuesday after refusing to wear a face covering, according to state and local election officials.

Precinct judges are in charge of coordinating and setting up election sites.

Carl McCloskey, from Apex, told WRAL News that he was forced to leave the voting site at Midway Baptist Church. Election officials said the judge was first asked to leave the church, and when he refused, they had to call the Wake County Sheriff's Office.

Gary Sims, Wake County Board of Elections director, said that McCloskey was "a little confrontational," with other poll workers after being asked to wear a face mask.

"We were a little taken [aback] because of his prior years and dedication and commitment," Sims said.

Officials said while they can't force voters to leave a precinct for not wearing a face covering, they can remove those who are working at polling locations.

McCloskey, who said he's been working in local elections for around 25 years, said that he did not wear a mask while working during the presidential election in 2020 and said there was no issue. He also claims that there were no explicit rules or posters stating face masks were required on Tuesday.

"We were not required to wear a mask. If we were, I would have not shown up there," he said.

Election officials dispute this, and said the face mask rules were clearly communicated to election workers in Wake County. The county extended its mask mandate last Friday after it was set to expire on Monday.

McCloskey says he was issued a restraining order and is not allowed back on the property for a year. The Wake County Sheriff's Office said that a restraining order can only come from a judge and that McCloskey was cited for trespassing.

"I've always played according to the rules. To have it get pulled out from under you, and to have no less than three sheriff's deputies, come and say you're off the property for a year, was kind of bizarre," McCloskey said.

He told WRAL News he does not believe that face masks work to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

McCloskey was also concerned because if he needs to vote at the precinct on Fayetteville Road, his restraining order means he could not do so.

He said sheriff's deputies told him he would need to participate in early voting in 2022.

"You're not going to tell me when to vote," he said.

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