October 22, 2021

Voting early amid virus? Expect lots of disinfectant

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Sue Wimer disinfects the polling station at the Cortland County Board of Elections. Early voting is underway, and the board and its poll workers have a system to make sure the ballots, the pens, the surfaces and their hands are disinfected between each voter.

Voters can expect a few changes because of the coronavirus, if they vote early at the Cortland County Board of Elections.

Republican Election Commissioner Robert Howe said Wednesday that 10 people or fewer have been coming in to vote since early voting began Saturday.

“So I want to vote early, what hours are you open? Do I have to knock on a door? Can you just give the public the process” Legislator Linda Jones (RHomer) asked Tuesday during a Personnel Committee.

Howe said when people arrive at the election office on River Street — which is the only early voting polling site in the county — they will see signs directing them to the back door of the building. Voters will enter through the back door and head over to a poll worker who will look up their name and sign in and receive their ballot. The voter will proceed to a privacy booth and fill out their ballot before placing it in one of several machines, which are assigned for different municipalities.

Early voting

Where: Board of Elections, 112 River St., Cortland
Thursday — Noon to 8 p.m.
Friday — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday — 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sunday — 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“No pencil. People have been asking about that, too, now,” Howe said. “No pencil, it has to be pen, black ink.”

“Do they bring their pen or do you provide them?” Jones asked.

“We provide the pen but we really strongly encourage they bring their own pen,” Howe said.

A mask can also be provided if someone doesn’t have one but wants to wear one.

“If they don’t want to wear one then we have to segregate them off to the side until there are no voters in the polling site.” Howe said.

The workers are also cleaning booths after each voter and have tape on the floor to meet social distancing requirements.

Poll workers demonstrated the process Wednesday. Each pen or stylus, and every surface, is disinfected after each voter, and poll workers never actually touch a surface with their bare hands. The workers — all wearing masks and some wearing face shields — disinfect their hands after every vote, and they don’t even touch the ballot after handing it to the voter; the voter inserts it into the scanner.

Howe also said that the Board of Elections has received 2,300 of the 5,500 absentee ballots it sent out.