The Next Normal: Voting will look different this year, all because of COVID-19

Voters can expect more social distancing and lots of sanitizing
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Updated: May. 13, 2020 at 6:47 PM CDT
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EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - It’s something that hasn’t changed all too much since the beginning ─ voting. Sure, technology has improved, but the standard of waiting in line to cast your ballot at a machine is still the norm for most of us. But with COVID-19 still looming, officials are looking into how to protect people when they show up to vote. Smith County Elections Administrator Karen Nelson says new safety guidelines from the Texas Secretary of State are in the works.

"We’re waiting for that information, but I can assume that the lines, you would have spacing in between people, you would make sure that you’ve got plenty of hand sanitizer out for everyone, you’re wiping down the screens, wiping down pens,” Nelson said.

In Gregg County, Elections Administrator Kathryn Nealy says she will be watching how the rescheduled primary runoff election goes in July, so they can better prepare for the November general election.

"In November, we are going to add many more early voting stations to help thin out that crowd,” Nealy said.

Another possibility of change is an increase of mail-in ballots. It eliminates any risk of going to a potentially crowded polling place. Nelson says they’re anticipating more mail-in ballots and are working now to prepare.

"We’re making plans to make sure we’ve got plenty of mail ballot packets on hand, plenty of applications on hand for people that want to go that route,” Nelson said.

Meanwhile, in smaller Angelina County, Elections Administrator Elizabeth Hawkins says they would have a difficult time keeping up with an increase of mail-in ballots.

"I have an office of two people and then I have to add an additional person right now, but with everything that’s going on, I don’t have that third person, so our office would not be able to handle an influx of ballot by mail. We would be here 24/7,” Hawkins said.

So the next time you vote by mail or cast your ballot in person, chances are, you’ll be seeing the voting next normal, at least for now.

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