Orange County voters will not be required to wear a mask at the polls.
“My desire is for everybody to wear a face covering when they come in. I think that’s the best way not only for our employees but voters. But, at the end of the day, you have a Constitutional right to cast that ballot, so I can’t force you to wear a face covering,” said Neal Kelley, Registrar of Voters for Orange County, California.
Kelley said poll workers are being taught de-escalation tools.
“Our goal is to not get in conflict with individuals or voters,” Kelley said. “If somebody just does not want to wear a mask, we’re not going to fight them on this, and we’ll allow them to vote. We have extra steps we’re taking and precautions to provide additional disinfectant. But we will have a face covering for every voter that walks in. If they don’t have one, we will offer them one.”
Kelley said the first thing a poll worker will do to de-escalate a situation is acknowledge the voter’s concerns and feelings about not wanting to wear a mask.
“We’ll make the first ask, and then we back down from that. Now I’m not encouraging people to show up without face coverings. We want them to show up with face coverings. But again, at the end of the day, the passions are heated, and we just don’t need that in that environment, in a vote center,” Kelley said.
Kelley’s biggest concern this election season is voter intimidation.
“I think one of the things that concerns me is just making sure that we have a safe environment for voters voting, whether that’s to protect them from COVID-19 or to make sure that we don’t have intimidation occurring at the vote centers,” he said. “I just want to be on record and tell you that we’re not going to tolerate intimidation of voters, and we’re not going to tolerate rule breaking, and we’re going to make sure it’s a safe environment for them.”
Employees will be wearing full personal protective equipment and have disinfectant supplies. Every voter will also get a disposable pen.
“I feel like I’m in the pen business because we have 300,000 pens in our dock,” Kelley said.
The Honda Center will be retrofitted as a massive vote center. Orange County residents also have the option to do drive-thru voting.
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