Casting Your Ballot In Person? Expect New Safety Measures For Pandemic-Era Voting

Managing traffic flow, physical distancing and regularly sanitizing equipment are all part of new general requirements.

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From social distancing to face coverings, if you vote in person this fall, it'll look and feel very different than what you're used to. 

The NBC LA I-Team has learned about the new rules and safety measures you'll encounter if you do cast your ballot at a polling place. 

“You're going to have spacing between these booths. You're going to have directional signs. You are going to have arrows on the floor. We're going to have all of our vote center staff in P.P.E. -- so they're in protected face shields -- and really cleaning the equipment before and after each use,” Registrar Neal Kelly said while walking through a mock voting center in Orange County.

Kelley talked about the pandemic-era changes voters will see at more than 170 voting sites in the county and hundreds more across the state.

The ones mentioned are just a few of the precautions county election offices are taking, based on new guidelines issued by the secretary of state, and obtained by the I-Team. 

That's why Kelley is drilling down on even the smallest details, like how to provide pens so that voters can mark their ballot.

“I just purchased 300,000 pens so that we can give it to a voter and you throw it away. Now we would have not done that in the past, but now with COVID-19 we're not using the same pen over and over again,” he said. 

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Managing traffic flow, physical distancing and regularly sanitizing equipment are all part of new general requirements.

There won’t be any hugging or handshakes, and election staff and workers are required to wear face coverings at all times and make disposable ones available to voters who arrive without masks.

“We're all dealing with day to day uncertainties right now, so the more lead time you allow yourself when you get that ballot [the better]. If you're ready to vote, fill it out, take it and drop it off at the drop box. If you're going to vote in person, take advantage of those early voting periods,” Dean Logan, the LA County Registrar Recorder, said. 

Logan says he’s expecting an even bigger turnout at the polls than the March primary when  73% of voters cast their ballots on election day. 

Larger venues like Dodger Stadium and Staples Center have been added as voting locations, for a total of 800 voting locations that will open five days before election day. They’re fanned out all across the county.

Logan is also preparing for any voters who want to do same-day registration. 

“We are looking at ways to try and make sure that we have a separate area of the center to assist voters who are there for registration so that they're not holding up the voters who are already registered,” he said. 

Election workers must also be trained not just on COVID-19 precautions, but also how to handle voters who do not want to or for a medical reason say they can't wear masks. That includes learning de-escalation options, since all voters must be allowed to vote.

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