Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Shenandoah County Registrar Lisa McDonald said she hopes all eligible voters will participate in Tuesday’s election and that her office is doing every thing possible to ensure safety.
“It’s still important to vote. And some people will say ‘I only vote in the important elections,’ and they mean the presidential…All elections are important and sometimes your local elections are even more important because those are the things that affect your life directly every day,” she said.
Throughout voting locations, she said there will be signs encouraging separation and markers on the floor signaling where people should stand to follow the 6-feet social distancing guidelines.
McDonald said all election officials will don masks on Tuesday and while it is not required, voters are also encouraged to wear masks if possible. She added that hand sanitizer will be available and polling locations will be cleaned throughout the day.
To prevent items from “being passed around,” she added that citizens should keep the pens they use to vote.
Additionally, she said screens will separate election officers from voters to ensure “limited contact” while citizens “still will receive full service.”
McDonald noted that the county received 1,057 absentee voting applications as of Wednesday afternoon. While that is more than usual, she anticipates there will be more in-person voters than absentee voters.
Absentee voting by mail was completed on Tuesday and the office continued accepting in-person absentee voting through today.
Every prescient will offer curbside voting, which she encouraged to be used, especially by those with young children or with COVID-19 symptoms. There will be signs pointing out the designated curbside voting areas.
“You pull up to the curb and someone comes out, you show the I.D. through the window. They come out with a ballot and a privacy folder to put your ballot into,” McDonald said.
She added that the ballots will be entered into counting machines in a way preventing election officials from seeing how people voted.
As the majority of election officers are older retirees who may be more susceptible to the virus, McDonald said the number of volunteers is “lower than usual” but “we generally need a lower number for town elections because we have had a historically lower turn out of voters.”
Although the pandemic has presented a series of challenges for the Registrar’s Office, McDonald said staff has been working overtime to ensure everything goes smoothly.
“It has been a continual challenge. We’ve constantly had dates changing or potentially changing. We’ve had to increase measures for the protection of everyone in this office as well as the voters. We’ve had to implement new plans for safety and for voting so that we can accomplish our final goal but still be safe and limit contact,” she said.