The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted much longer than anyone hoped for. Now that elections are coming up, many eligible voters are worried about their safety and health at the polls.
Here’s what Collin County voters can expect to experience at the polls between Oct. 13 and Nov. 3:
There are 43 centers for early voting, which begins Oct. 13. Here is an interactive map of polling centers.
According to Collin County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet, Collin County voters tend to head to the polls early — before Election Day.
In the two previous Presidential Elections, early voting accounted for approximately 83 percent of Collin County ballots cast.
While Collin County voters head to the polls early, they still tend to procrastinate even on early voting. Sherbet said the busiest day in the county is the last day of early voting. If you’re trying to social distance, he advised heading to the polls well before the last day of early voting.
“Don't wait until the last day to vote early. It is historically our busiest day, sometimes twice as much that last day than any other day of early voting,” Sherbet said.
The County ordered 125 plexiglass shields and will be providing face masks at polling locations.
Additionally, all voters are provided with a Q-tip so they do not have to touch the voting machine’s screen. After casting their ballots, they can throw their Q-tip away.
Voters should be aware that excessive use of hand sanitizer could smudge the ink on the ballot, according to Kaleb Breaux, VR Coordinator at Collin County Elections.
This may render the ballot not legible for the voting machine and/or the ballot counter. Ultimately, the voter can speak with a poll worker to fix this problem and get a new ballot. However to keep things moving along quickly, it may be better to use a responsible amount of hand sanitizer and keep your wet hands off your ballot.
What about face masks?
While the Collin County Elections Board has taken several measures to ensure the safety of voters, Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate does not require voters or poll workers to wear masks at the polling place.
Abbott’s executive order states that one of the few exceptions to his executive order applies to “any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged.”
Collin County has no legal authority to enforce voters or poll workers to wear face masks. However, Sherbet said the Elections Board strongly encourages wearing masks and extras will be available at polling locations.
Any individual can request to vote curbside for any reason, whether that is due to mobility-related disabilities, because they believe they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, or because they do not feel comfortable entering the polling place.
Voters should be cautioned though that this method of casting a ballot presents a few obstacles: first, Sherbet said it takes four to five times longer to cast one curbside ballot than it does to cast a single ballot inside.
Second, there are only a couple curbside voting parking locations outside polling places. While Sherbet said historically there is not a high demand for curbside voting, navigating the parking lot if there is a line to get into the curbside voting space may be a bit chaotic.