When voters show up to cast their ballots this year, they’ll see hand sanitizing stations, floor markings to help them maintain social distancing, and poll workers wearing masks.
The Forsyth County Board of Elections is preparing with an eye toward CDC guidelines for a voting season without precedent in modern history. Elections officials are also preparing for a deluge of mail-in ballots.
“Poll workers this year will be doing cleanings throughout the day on Election Day, and also during the 17 days we’ll have early voting,” says Michelle Bobadilla, deputy director at the Forsyth County Board of Elections. “They’ll be wiping down all the knobs, tables, and chairs. There will also be a designated table for PPE [personal protective equipment] for voters.”
Election Day this year falls on Nov. 3, with early voting running from Oct. 15 to Oct. 31.
Bobadilla says the county has been getting plenty of guidance from the state about how to proceed. Officials have also been seeking advice from other jurisdictions in the state that held runoff elections in June.
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“We’ve been able to talk with folks about what works and what doesn’t work,” Bobadilla says. “The state has also been sharing with us what other states have been doing. And that has really helped us. You just have to be extra-prepared, but we’re confident we’re going to make the election experience a great one.”
If big lines do form, poll workers, if feasible, will try to have them waiting outside, so the buildings themselves don’t become too crowded. Plastic dividers will be in place. Voters are encouraged, but not required to wear masks. However, masks and gloves will be made available to voters who don’t have their own, and disposable styluses will be in use.
More voters than ever before, though, are looking to avoid the crowds.
Statewide, county election boards, as of late August, had received 560,000 requests for absentee ballots. At around the same time in 2016, about 34,000 requests had been made.
Bobadilla says that as of late August, 27,500 absentee ballots had been requested by Forsyth County voters. In 2016, she said, 13,500 ballots had been requested by Forsyth County voters during the entirety of the general election season. (Bobadilla notes that of those, 11,400 were returned).
As of late August, the Board of Elections had brought in about a dozen temporary workers to help with the influx, and expected to bring in more.
“We have a team that will be working on processing those ballots, scanning them, and communicating with folks,” Bobadilla says. “We’re working diligently to get everything ready to go, but we are in good shape.”
Dates to remember for this year’s election.
- Early voting runs from Oct. 15 to Oct. 31. For a full list of times and locations, visit forsyth.cc/Elections.
- On Election Day, Nov. 3, the polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Those who wish to request an absentee ballot can do so with a form available at ncsbe.gov/voting/vote-mail. Voters can also pick up that form at the Forsyth County Board of Elections office at 201 N. Chestnut St. in Winston-Salem, or call (336) 703-2800, and ask that it be mailed to them.
- The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is Oct. 27. The form can be returned via mail, email, fax, or in person.
- The completed ballots can be returned by mail, by commercial courier service, or in person at the county Board of Elections office or at an early voting site in your county of residence.
- If you’re returning the ballot by mail, it has to be postmarked on or before Election Day, and must arrive before 5 p.m. on Nov. 6 in order for it to be counted.
- The ballot must be signed by the voter. A witness who is 18 or older must sign the absentee return envelope.
- Due to the expected surge in absentee voting, elections officials are urging voters to return their ballots as soon as possible.