PHOENIX — County Recorder’s offices all over Arizona are dealing with the challenge of getting voters to the polls safely in the middle of a pandemic. Since planning for the election started years ago, every one of them has had to completely restructure the elections this year, after coronavirus crept into the Valley.
ABC15 sat down with Adrian Fontes, the County Recorder for Maricopa County, to find out what steps they have had to take to ensure voters and their employees stay safe during the August primary election.
"Polling places are going to look a little different than they used to," said Fontes.
Like many other businesses, Fontes said you can expect to see pandemic protection front and center as soon as you show up to cast your vote.
Fontes added that all staff working at the polls would be wearing gloves, masks, and face shields. They would also be asking all voters who come in to cast their ballots to wear a mask.
"If people don't have masks or can't afford one, we will have masks available for all of our voters," said Fontes.
For those who refused to mask up, Fontes had this to say:
"We can’t and never will deny anyone the right to vote. We very much expect that our citizenry will be courteous enough to put on a mask for a short period of time and still exercise that fundamental right to vote."
The Maricopa County Recorder's Office has spent more than $200,000 on cleaning supplies and say high-touch surfaces at every polling place will be wiped down multiple times a day. All election workers have been undergoing special training with guidance from the state and Maricopa County Health Department. The biggest safety measure, though, according to Fontes, lies in the dozens of voting centers that are already open for voters in Maricopa County.
"Our original plan for this election was to have 500 polling places open, but those were assigned polling places," explained Fontes. He added that those plans had to be scrapped in March and now anyone can vote anywhere. His office did away with assigned polling places for the August Primary Election.
"We're going to have options. Nearly 100 places, where any voter can vote on election day and the entire two weeks, including nights and weekends and right up to election day," said Fontes.
Less polling places means less workers and less people exposed, but it also gives people more time and opportunities to cast their votes. Fontes said he hoped more people voting before election day will mean less crowds and shorter lines at the polls on August 4.
Fontes said the turnout is already looking good in Maricopa County. The number of voters requesting a ballot in the mail is now at about 76%. The Recorder's Office will mail voters an "I voted" sticker along with their voting instructions this year, to reduce the number of people showing up at a polling place just to pick up a sticker.
For more information on the election, click here.
You can track your ballots online here.