Voting in person during COVID: What you need to know

Updated: Sep. 24, 2020 at 6:20 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - For many of us, this election will be the first time casting a ballot in-person during a pandemic, so you can expect some changes when heading to the polls.

Elections officials are expecting longer lines and wait times on Nov. 3 than possibly ever before. Lines could stretch out the door, and possibly around the block, with voters directed to socially distance six feet apart. Cleaning in between voters will also add time.

Poll officials recommend voting early to avoid a long wait and big crowds. Virginia voters have until Oct. 31 to head to their polling place in-person. This election, no reason is needed to vote absentee in the Commonwealth. Ballots are also processed and counted the same way they would as if they were cast on Nov. 3.

In-person voting will follow much of the same protocol that we’ve all gotten used to during COVID times. Wear a mask, which is mandated by the state, and even wear gloves. That said, poll workers will not kick people out of line, if they don’t have a mask on, according to the Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Chris Piper.

“If you’re unwilling or unable to wear a mask, then we ask that you request a curbside ballot,” said Piper.

Curbside voting is available if you can’t wait in line or wear a mask for medical reasons. A poll worker will check your registration and bring you a ballot, while you stay in the car. Contact your local registrar in advance if you need special assistance.

Poll workers will be equipped with face coverings, disinfectant, hand sanitizer and potentially plexiglass screens at the registration table, as you’re checking in.

“Our officers will be regularly cleaning the booths,” said Richmond General Registrar Kirk Showalter.

Even pens will be cleaned in between voters, according to Showalter. However, if you’d like to be extra careful, bring your own black pen. In some locations, like Henrico, you may be required to take your pen and folder with you, when you’re done voting.

A record number of people have requested mail-in absentee ballots in Virginia this election, but Nov. 3 could still be a madhouse. Make sure to double-check your registration and polling place information before you head out, so you’re not running into problems when you get there. Aim to arrive at the polls at off-peak times, dodging the morning, lunch hour and evening rushes. Also, read over a sample ballot for your district beforehand, or head to the Department of Elections website so you can see a list of candidates and ballot questions, so you’re not doing any research on your phone in the voting booth.

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