While many in Michigan have already cast their votes with mail-in ballots, millions of people are still planning to vote in-person on Election Day

Poll workers, city clerks and state officials are working to ensure a safe voting experience for all who choose to vote in person amid the pandemic, including in Michigan. 

In a press conference last Tuesday, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told attendees about the various precautions they are taking at the polls for those voting in person. 

“We’ve provided for every election worker PPE (personal protective equipment ), masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, sneeze guards, social distancing protocols for precincts that require voting booths to be spaced out within six feet to comply with CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines,” Benson said. 

Benson referenced the success of the August primary elections citing minimal wait times at the polls and effective sanitation practices. She also emphasized the importance of maintaining the COVID-19 response guidelines and keeping poll workers safe.

“The bottom line from a health standpoint, we are doing all that data and best practices indicate are needed to ensure safe access to the polls on Election Day,” Benson said. 

Public Policy senior Alex Krabill is planning to work the polling location for Grand Rapids Township in Ohio. Krabill said  Ohio, another key swing state, is implementing a range of safety precautions at the polls.

“The Board of Elections is requiring all polling workers to be behind plastic screens when servicing voters, to not produce direct contact with any individual, to wipe down touch-screen electronics and provided styluses after every voter use, to recommend curbside voting to any individual who does not comply with mask wearing and to wear a government-provided mask,” Krabill said.

Krabill said that while poll workers and the Board of Elections can try to ensure safe practices, voters must make their own decisions about what to do at the polls. 

Krabill voted in person and did not think that his experience posed risk to himself or others. However, he said he is worried about people who do not comply with the guidelines. 

“The only rule I’m worried about is that we cannot force someone who refuses to wear a mask to vote in a specific, safe manner,” Krabill said. “We must instead recommend that voters step outside and curbside vote and, if they don’t comply, there’s nothing we can do as poll workers. Their right to vote supersedes the potential health hazard they present. Despite this, I believe people will generally comply with scientifically-backed procedures that don’t cause major headaches.”

Public Policy junior Sarah Niemann is working at the polls at the Michigan League. She said officials have been working hard to provide poll workers and in-person voters with the equipment they need to make voting a safe experience for all who choose to vote in person. 

“They provide us all with PPE, including a KN95 mask, that protects us from others,” Niemann said. “They also have sanitizing stations and we have to sanitize the pens and any other item that voters use to vote after they are used. We also have protective screens between us and the voters and all voters remain a safe distance from us.”

Niemann said she feels confident with the safety protections put in place this year. 

“Because of all the safety protocols, I’m not worried about voting not being safe for poll workers,” Niemann said. “I only worry about voters waiting in line together or coming into the polling location at the same time where safety measures are not in place because it’s not within the precinct yet.”

Daily Staff Reporter Sarah Payne can be reached at paynesm@umich.edu

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