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Election officials outline safety rules

Val Betkoski, director of nursing with the Washington County Health Department, demonstrates how to put on a gown during a special meeting of the Washington County Board of Elections on Thursday night. (Photo by Michele Newbanks)

About two dozen precinct elections officials met Thursday night to discuss how to keep people safe during in-person voting in the November election.

Karen Pawloski, deputy director of the Washington County Board of Elections, said almost 400 people have signed up to be poll workers this election “which is a blessing.”

Not only has there been a greater number of people wanting to work the polls, the board office has seen a “ton of applications” for absentee ballots, she said.

“We’ve gotten close to 6,000 applications as of today,” Pawloski noted Thursday. “I personally think we are going to see a lot of early voting.”

Dennis Sipe, president of the election board, said he is encouraging everyone he knows to early vote. He believes provisional balloting will also be up.

“They ask for an absentee ballot, then go to the polls,” he explained.

Val Betkoski, director of nursing at the Washington County Health Department, said masks are mandatory for both poll workers and voters. She advised the poll workers that if they haven’t worn a mask for long periods of time, they should try it before election day. For those with health issues, face shields will be made available.

“They have to wear a mask, but in America, everyone gets to vote,” Sipe said. “We’ll talk about curbside voting.”

Pawloski said if a voter refuses to wear a mask, they will be asked to curbside vote. With curbside voting, bipartisan election officials will take a voter’s ballot to their vehicle so they can vote.

For those who want to drop off an application or ballot after hours, there is a slot in the door of the Board of Election’s office at 204 Davis Ave. A ballot box will also be set up where people can drop off their applications or ballots without getting out of their cars.

Sipe noted cameras will be on the walkway to the board’s front door and on the ballot box for safety and to safeguard against ballot stuffing.

Pawloski said for those poll workers who want to be extra cautious, there will be 250 tearaway gowns available.

“I want to protect the voters and protect you guys,” Betkoski told the poll workers.

Along with sanitizing voting machines, she said poll workers should be sanitizing pens. One way to keep the used and new pens apart is to use a cup for used pens and a cup for new pens. The used pens can be sanitized and put back into the new pen cup.

Pawloski noted sneeze guards are also being made at the Washington County Career Center for the poll books.

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