Coronavirus Safety Precautions At Polling Locations Needed

Posted on May 18, 2020 · 3 mins read


I sent the following message to the Allegheny County Board of Elections on Monday afternoon, in anticipation of a board meeting on Tuesday May 19th, 2020. I hope that appropriate precautions will be taken regarding Coronavirus during election day. Both election workers as well as voters themselves must be protected as they exercise their right to vote. The letter is republished below:

I’d like to express concern for the public health during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic as the 2020 primary election day on June 2nd draws near. This year presents a challenge for all as we balance public health with the right to vote, therefore I hope the Board of Elections may be able to comment on what precautions are being taken.

My understanding is that health and safety professionals are recommending that regular sanitizing procedures be put in place. It is recommended that poll workers be trained in proper procedures, either in person or via pre-recorded instructional videos, and have written procedures provided to polling locations. Polling locations will require safety kits that include sanitary supplies and personal protective equipment, and signs or other marks for display to voters to easily observe distancing while waiting in line to vote. Poll workers also face a long election day, as I learned from experience as an elections clerk last year, and need regular breaks where the worker may isolate from people in order to be able to remove personal protective equipment and eat and drink, visit a restroom, or simply relax.

I therefore echo many other community organizations in asking the following questions:

  1. How will poll workers be trained in proper procedures to sanitize the polling place?
  2. Will this training be designed by medical or infection-control professionals after observing a demonstration of election operations?
  3. Will the safety kits provided to polling places be comprised of items listed as necessary and approved by infection-control professionals and the State Health Department?
  4. Will guidance be provided to candidates’ campaigns and political parties to ensure representatives may campaign and observe the vote and count procedures in accordance with best safety practices?

Thank you for urgently addressing these issues during this emergency pandemic situation.

Garret Wassermann previous election worker, Coraopolis Borough and Green Party of Allegheny County Vice-chair

UPDATE: 5/19: The Board of Elections meetings has concluded and it appears that this message was not read into the record. There also does not appear to be a clear answer to the questions brought up in this letter and by other members of the community. One positive thing was that elections workers will receive hazard pay of $200 instead of the normal pay of roughly $120 depending on the position.

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