El Paso election officials take precautions during COVID-19 pandemic
EL PASO -- El Paso County election administrators have precautions in place at polling places to protect voters health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every election has its own challenges,” Wise said. “This has definitely been probably the most challenging on the logistical side of just making sure that we have enough supplies on things we normally wouldn’t supply,”said Lisa Wise, El Paso elections administrator.
The supplies and new safeguards include poll workers wearing masks and face shields, providing a disposable styluses for each voter that can be used for the touch screen machines, air disinfectant and hand sanitizer available for voters and poll workers.
Election officials are also placing six foot seperation markers on the floor to indicate where voters may stand in order to observe social distancing. Poll workers are also using germicidal cleaner to help disinfect voting stations after each use and encouraging the use of face masks, although people who decide against wearing a mask can still vote.
“The Texas Elections Code does not allow us to enforce masks, so even though the county and city have a mandate right now, that’s actually superseded by the state election code,” Wise said. “So if somebody were to come in without a mask we ask them ‘would you like a mask’ if they say ‘no I don’t want to wear a mask’ we process them through, that’s what the law requires.”
Despite the challenges the pandemic has brought, early voting turnout has increased compared to previous years according to Election officials. During the first three days of early voting over 11,300 people casted their vote both in person and through mail-in ballots, a 46% increase compared to 2018’s primary runoff election.
“With the mail-in ballots, as well as the in-person early voting, we’ve seen a pretty decent turnout compared to what we normally see,” Wise said. “I’m not sure what election day will look like, I’m hoping that everybody is either voting, if they can, by mail or by early voting when they have more options and we have more opportunity to social distance,” said Wise.
Early voting for the 2020 runoff elections began begain June 29th and runs through July 10, providing a longer time period to vote than usual due to the coronavirus. Election day is Tuesday July 14 and polling places are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.