Saturday, November 28, 2020

How to stay safe and cast your ballot this election season

October 27, 2020
Photo by Hope Ann Flores | The State News

With the Nov. 3 election quickly approaching, East Lansing city officials have suggested the numerous ways for residents to cast their ballots safely given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The East Lansing City Clerk's Office has been busy preparing for election day and has expanded their accessibility given the expected high turnout. They are offering longer hours for voters to come into the office to register or vote early, as well as an additional satellite office in the Hannah Community Center. 

For those who wish to cast a ballot in person on election day, polling locations will be equipped and ready to keep residents safe. 

"We are continuing to utilize as much PPE as possible for our election inspectors," East Lansing City Clerk Jennifer Shuster said. "We are screening their temperatures when they show up for their shifts. (We’re) providing them with face masks, face shields, gloves, plenty of disinfectant wipes and spray."

Shuster said they have special alcohol prep wipes to wipe down the machines, which are also provided for the voters. The staff will also be disinfecting voting booths between the usage. 

"We have plexiglass tabletop shields that we will have at the different stations throughout the polling location where the workers are interacting with voters," Shuster said. "We have four markings for social distancing throughout the polling locations, so areas where voters would be in line marking those six foot markings."

Masks will be provided for those who do not have them, but voters are not required to wear a mask at the polling locations; however, it is encouraged. Given the Secretary of State's guidance, voters cannot be turned away for entering without a mask. 

"I do highly encourage all of our voters to still wear a mask, or proper PPE," Shuster said. "Because obviously, they will have to interact with our election workers to be able to vote in person. So, just being aware of where your polling location is and making a plan for election day." 

If residents are concerned about crowded polling places, avoiding peak times like early in the morning when the polls open, or after 5 p.m. can also help to reduce risks. 

"There's always some risk and of course, in the midst of a pandemic, it's a heightened risk," Health Officer for the Ingham County Health Department Linda Vail said. "But there are ways to mitigate it. ... Mask wearing, social distancing and trying to stay out of large gatherings, they are all very effective. Polling places could end up being relatively large gatherings with big crowds. So, the off-peak idea is good." 

East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens said he also encourages voters to wear a mask while in polling stations, washing your hands before and after and to vote early, if possible. 

"So, the biggest thing you can do to stay safe is to vote early," Stephens said. "We have hours within our clerk's office to do that. You can register at our clerk's office and then vote at our clerk's office early. And I would say the best thing that you can do to stay safe is vote early. It's going to mean there's less people there, it's going to decrease the amount of crowds that we have actually on Election Day. That's why we're doing increased hours at the clerk's office. That's why we have a satellite location." 

While some voters may be hesitant to vote in person, Jan Liu, M.D. in family medicine, said it is perfectly safe to do so, as long as you are following the guidelines. 

"We have options, and I encourage everybody to exercise their right to vote," Liu said. "This year is going to be different. There are a lot of additional challenges this year because of the pandemic and what's going on. And I think there are some out there who might try to dissuade people voting by scaring them and saying, 'no, it's not safe,' but we have lots of options. And I think the polling places are very aware and doing everything they can to make sure that we're staying six feet apart and wearing masks, so it shouldn't be an issue." 

The main City Clerk’s office in East Lansing City Hall (410 Abbot Road), will be open the following expanded hours leading up to Election Day:

  • Saturday, Oct. 31: 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.

  • Sunday, Nov. 1: 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.

This satellite office in Hannah Community Center (819 Abbot Road) will be open until Tuesday, Nov. 3 at the following times and the following expanded hours:

  • Monday, Oct. 26 - Friday, Oct. 30: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Saturday, Oct. 31 and Sunday, Nov. 1: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

  • Monday, Nov. 2: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Election Day - Tuesday, Nov. 3: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

    This article is part of our Election 2020 print edition. View the full issue here.

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