News spread of long lines at voting booths, people waiting for hours to vote and mishaps with mail-in ballots in early June. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, voting booths became a difficult aspect to work with. The voting process became much slower and more time-consuming because of the new six feet apart regulations. Many voting stations, particularly in Atlanta, suffered excruciating wait times for voters causing many to send in absentee ballots, some of which were late and some of which were sent to incorrect locations. As a result, the majority of the submitted ballots were rejected.
With the November election coming up in just a matter of months, and the coronavirus still being active in society, the voting process could potentially be difficult once again. Poll workers now have to readjust what they did in the primaries so that there aren’t the same difficulties in November. This means looking back and correcting mistakes, as well as updating the guidelines already in place.
“We have to make sure that all the social distancing guidelines and PPE mandates are carried out,” said Laurel Wilbanks, poll worker for Gwinnett County. “This makes handicap or language assistance a bigger challenge for us.”
With proper precautions and the understanding of new challenges, there is still fear among poll workers that it will not go as planned or that the work done will not be taken seriously by voters coming in.
“I worry that a few voters will become upset and angry at the wait and the inconvenience of following all the mandates and that they will take out that frustration on all the poll workers, even though the rules are not under our control,” said Wilbanks.
While gearing up and preparing for the election, there is still the question of who will come to vote in person. The elderly are one of the most at-risk populations when it comes to the pandemic, however, according to pew research, voters of the age of 50 and above account for 56% of votes in the U.S, while 83% of people, ages 40 and above, are poll workers.
“People’s fears about the pandemic are affecting voter turnout, and I am concerned that some people, especially the elderly, will not feel comfortable coming to the polls or that they will feel like they don’t have the time,” said Wilbanks. “However, I think more people will vote overall, but the volume at the polls will end up being the same as in a normal election.”
Despite the new changes and pressure on voting due to the importance of the November election, there is still hope and confidence that all will go well and according to plan when the election happens.
“I tend to see the best in people and feel like everything will work out the way it is supposed too,” said Wilbanks. “I am confident that no matter what happens, we will be able to overcome whatever circumstances may come up.”