BOISE, Idaho — Concerns surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced Idaho to vote through mail in the May primary election.
After months of learning and preparing, however, election officials are working hard to ensure in-person voting is safe.
“We will be taking under some additional safety measures," Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane said. "We’ve been working with Central District Health to define what those are going to be, but we were able to test those out during the August election. So, we are cleaning things regularly. Poll workers will be wearing masks and are provided face shields as well. We have masks available for voters and we will be encouraging all voters to wear a mask.”
The iconic cardboard voting booths will be utilized for the November election but will be set up with physical distancing in mind.
"Rather than being shoulder-to-shoulder with the voter next to you, we will actually be spacing them out," McGrane said. "We are very fortunate here locally that West Ada and Boise School districts have worked with us so that we can take advantage of the gymnasiums to really spread the voting booths out and try to make sure there is plenty of space for social distancing as people come in.”
In addition to physical distancing concerns, questions have arisen regarding poll worker's abilities to keep voting booths sanitary.
"We are going to periodically sanitize, but not in-between each and every voter," McGrane said. "For those who are compromised in any way, they should really request an absentee ballot. We are going to be providing pencils, we call them our commemorative pencils, so voters don’t have to share writing utensils if they don’t want to. Voters can also bring their own. We are trying to kind of layer all the safety measures we can to fit the best practices.”
Teams have been working hard for weeks to make sure in-person voting happens safely, according to McGrane.
“It takes a lot of logistics. This is a part of the logistics operation to make sure we have everything at every location because once the polls open at 8 a.m. on Election Day there is really no turning back. We have to have everything in order and in place on that day,” he said. “It’s going to be a partnership between us and the voters and the poll workers trying to make sure we keep everybody in this process safe.”
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