VIERA, Fla. – Early voting feels like it always does. You show identification, verify your signature on a digital pad, and initial a receipt with a pen to collect a paper ballot. Then you take the ballot to a booth, pick up a pen, mark your choices, and then walk over to a machine that processes your ballot.
That means touching at least four shared objects and surfaces. So, with emerging concerns over the novel coronavirus spreading across Florida, the Brevard County Supervisor of Elections office has instructed poll workers to wipe down pens and booths with Clorox wipes every hour, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
Chief Deputy Karen Graham said that last week a conference call with staff from the state level division of elections took place to discuss guidance from the state. Beyond making hand sanitizer available, specific courses of action are at the discretion of each county's election supervisor.
"Since last week we’re taking precautions, we have hand sanitizer, hand wipes at every polling location and Clorox wipes for wiping down booths and pens, poll workers have been instructed to do that once per hour," Graham said.
Early voting continues until Saturday until 4 p.m. at any of 10 polling locations across Brevard. For details: votebrevard.com
While it is now too late to request a vote-by-mail ballot, Florida does not require a reason to request one. Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee reminded voters on Tuesday morning that individuals self-quarantining can still vote by mail, provided they fill out affidavits, which can be found online, to designate someone to pick up their ballot for them.
Graham noted that planning for the general election in November is “too far out for right now” and that “for now we’re taking guidance from the state.”
“This is an evolving situation and we are doing what’s in the best interest of voters,” she said.
On Mar. 3, the Director of the Division Elections Maria Matthews, shared CDC guidance for polling places with all election supervisors. Such guidance includes encouraging early voting, voting at off-peak times and vote by mail to avoid larger crowds on election day. Also included is a list of products with EPA-approved claims for disinfecting COVID-19. Clorox wipes are on that list.
On Monday, the Florida Department of State issued a press release stating that "The Department is working with Supervisors of Elections to ensure hand sanitizer stations are available at polling locations. The Department continues to monitor the situation with our federal, state, and local partners. Florida voters concerned about COVID-19 should make themselves aware of ways to protect against exposure and should consider the Vote-By-Mail option."
There are no confirmed cases in Brevard County. Florida has so far seen 14 confirmed cases and two deaths.