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Early voting in the 2020 General Election starts Monday. With the COVID-19 pandemic, things are going to be a little different.

Boone County election coordinator Beckie Benton gave the Daily Times a little tour of the process for early voting at the Election Center.

When you walk in you will be met by a pollworker who will ask you to sanitize your hands. You will also find a stand-up device that looks like a large cell phone. The machine will instruct you to move closer and align the red dot on your forehead so it can measure your temperature. The pollworker will also have a hand-held thermometer if needed.

If a voter registers a fever, there is a pause in the process. The voter will be moved to the side of the line and staff notified. The voter will then cast a provisional ballot. After that voter leaves the Election Center, the entire area between the voter’s last position to the front door will be sanitized before more voters are allowed inside.

Voters without fever will proceed into the Election Center, where large red circles are placed on the floor to indicate social distancing requirements as people wait in line.

In the past, there has been one entrance where voters check in and get their ballots, then another when they exit. This year is different because you will enter one end of the building and exit the other.

Both doors leading to the voting machines will be entrances. The pollworker checking voters in will ask the voter to hold photo identification up to a plexiglass screen, then ask the voter to pull down their face mask to make positive ID. The voter will then take a small stylus they will use to sign for the ballot. After the ballot is issued, the voter moves on to the voting machine.

There are eight voting machines spaced more than 6 feet apart, but also separated by standing screens. Benton said she tried to make enough space in case a parent brings children with them or in case someone needs to maneuver a wheelchair into the voting space.

They will use the stylus to make their selections on the voting machine, then take the printed ballot to the tabulator at the rear of the room. They will feed the ballot into the tabulator and leave the stylus in a bin so it can be sanitized later. They then exit the rear of the building.

That is under most circumstances.

A voter with a disability who has been brought to vote will be allowed to exit a side door to get in a waiting vehicle. Ramps have been installed at the rear of the building to make walking or maneuvering a wheelchair easier.

County Clerk Crystal Graddy said she hopes to arrange for a golf cart to shuttle elderly people back to their vehicles if necessary.

Now, Benton explained that face masks are encouraged, but can’t be required to keep from interfering with the right to vote. A voter who refuses to wear a mask will be taken to a voting machine set aside for just that reason. The machine will be cleaned afterward.

There are a couple of new things for pollworkers. They will be wearing smocks identifying them as such. With people wearing masks, it can be hard to discern.

People who routinely vote at the Election Center may see some new faces as pollworkers.

Benton explained that all polling places in the county had to establish similar procedures for Election Day. So, pollworkers from each of the 12 precincts will work one day of early voting together to familiarize them with the process.

“So, every day will be a different group of early voter workers,” Benton said.

Graddy said all polling places must now be equipped with a system to alert pollworkers of a handicapped voter outside who needs help inside. A button on a stand outside polling places will do just that.

Both Benton and Graddy agreed that early voting will be a slower process this year, but everything in 2020 is a little more difficult.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 19, and runs through Monday, Nov. 2. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The exception is that early voting ends at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2.

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