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Early voting during pandemic: What to expect at the polls

Election officials break down all the precautions they're taking to keep voters safe at the polls.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — As you head to the polls, election officials said to expect to notice some changes as they work to keep voters safe amid the pandemic. 

Also, keep in mind that lines are expected to be longer the first few days and last days of early voting.

"The State Board and county boards of elections are taking precautions to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers. Poll workers will be required to wear masks. Voters are strongly encouraged to wear masks, but a mask is not required in order to vote," said Noah Grant, State Board of Elections spokesperson.

Other safety precautions include:

  • Enforcing social distancing at polling places and early voting sites
  • Providing hand sanitizer and masks for voters and election workers who do not bring their own
  • Providing gloves and face shields for election workers
  • Erecting barriers between election workers and voters at check-in tables
  • Providing single-use pens in counties that use hand-marked paper ballots and Q-tips for voters who use ballot-marking devices
  • Frequently cleaning surfaces and equipment in polling places and early voting sites
  • Recruiting poll workers who are less vulnerable to the virus

Typically, every year counties hand out "I Voted" stickers, but to reduce the number of points of contact at a polling place, most counties have chosen not to hand them out. Grant said some counties have come up with sticker dispensers, but don't expect all sites to have them.

Voters can bring their kids to the polls, but election officials ask parents to have their children follow the appropriate guidelines and health precautions.

"We want young people to learn the importance of voting and witness democracy in action," Grant said.

Early voting starts Thursday and runs through Oct. 31. To see a full list of early voting sites click here.

Remember, if you aren't registered to vote, you can register and vote through same-day registration at any early voting site in your county.