With Election Day approaching, Pima County is working to ensure voters and poll workers are protected as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Nearly 177,000 early ballots — over 50% of the total mailed — had been returned to the Pima County Recorder’s Office as of Friday, surpassing the total number of voters in the 2018 primary election by 4,000. That number is expected to rise as ballots continue to come through the mail or are returned to early voting sites over the next few days.
While it seems like more people have taken advantage of early ballot and mail-in voting this year, Brad Nelson, director of the Pima County Elections Department, said they are still expecting many people to show up in person on election day. Nelson said there are about 580,000 eligible voters for this year’s primary election, 240,000 of whom did not request a mailed ballot.
Pima County residents who are voting in person this Tuesday, Aug. 4, should expect to see a number of precautions in place to allow them to vote safely during the pandemic. The 2,000 poll workers serving in Pima County will be supplied with masks, plastic face shields, gloves, disinfectant spray and hand sanitizer.
Masks and proper social distancing will be required for anyone who wishes to cast a ballot. If a voter does not have a mask, they will be provided one at their polling location.
“Poll workers are not enforcement officers by any stretch of the imagination,” Nelson said. “The poll workers will ask that voters comply with the Board of Supervisors resolution and wear a mask. Of course if they don’t have one, there will be some available for their use. And hopefully they will comply.”
Nelson said there will also be options available for voters who still need to drop off an early ballot and who don’t feel comfortable going into the polling location.
“There’s going to be signage up front that lets those individuals know that every 15 minutes, a poll worker will exit the polling place and gather those early ballots, in the case that they are unwilling to enter the polling place,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in a number of older adults, who make up a large number of poll workers, to opt out of working the election this year because of their increased risk.
“We’ve had some of our veteran poll workers, who fall into those categories, decide not to work this particular election because of concerns perhaps from themselves or their loved ones,” Nelson said. “But we have had the vast majority of our veteran poll workers continue to come forward and serve on Election Day.”
Overall, Nelson said the Election Department is doing everything it can to ensure that both poll workers and voters feel safe enough to vote Tuesday.
Nelson encouraged those who are voting in person to look up where their polling place is, because it has likely changed since the last election.
To find your polling place, track the status of your mailed early ballot or find the full list of early voting site locations and hours, visit recorder.pima.gov.
Contact reporter Jasmine Demers
On Twitter: @JasmineADemers
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