Here’s How Michigan Is Preparing For Its Pandemic Election

Southeast Michigan clerks are doing what they can to keep voters and workers safe at the polls.

Michigan’s primary election is coming up on Tuesday, in the middle of a pandemic. While a record number of people are choosing to avoid their precinct and vote absentee, the polls will still be open.

“Rest assured that we are doing everything that we can to keep everybody safe as a voter and workers as well,” says Warren Clerk Sonja Buffa. She says on Election Day in Warren they will also have social distancing inspectors at the door, making sure that people stay six feet away from each other.

“There’s clearly some concern about individuals who may not be willing to wear a mask, showing up and voting.” — Canton Clerk Michael Siegrist

If you decide to vote in person on August 4th, here’s what to expect in Michigan.

Click on the player above to hear how Michigan is preparing for it’s first pandemic election.

Poll Workers Testing, Temperature Checks

In Detroit, where the virus has done the most damage, City Clerk Janice Winfrey says all poll workers are taking a COVID-19 test before their required training.

“If they have a negative COVID test, they submit that, and that will suffice. If they experience any symptoms between now and Election Day, they are to notify us, and then we’ll have them retested,” says Winfrey.

Poll workers will also have their temperatures checked on Election Day and they’ll have to fill out a health questionnaire. Winfrey says.

PPE, Social Distancing And Extra Sanitation

When you show up you’ll see poll workers in masks and maybe gloves and face shields, depending on where you vote. And there will be stickers marking every six feet, in case you need to wait in line.

You’ll check in and get your ballot as usual, but the poll workers you interact with will be sitting behind plastic barriers. If they have to exchange something with you, they will sanitize their hands afterwards. 

Once you get your ballot, you’ll go behind a booth and vote as usual. And when you’re done, a worker will come and sanitize the booth, pen and machine you just used so it will be clean for the next person.

Masks Not Required for Voters

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

While masks will be required for election workers, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer clarified in an executive order face coverings will not be mandatory for voters, only strongly encouraged. 

Orion Township Clerk Penny Shults says this isn’t a big deal to her team.

“Our workers are wearing masks, and our workers are behind privacy shields, and so we’re not hearing concerns from our workers regarding that requirement,” says Shults.

But Canton Clerk Michael Siegrist says the idea of serving voters without masks makes some of his poll workers nervous.

“There’s clearly some concern about individuals who may not be willing to wear a mask, showing up and voting. And I understand that concern,” says Siegrist. “I think a lot of us are concerned about our family members, our loved ones, our own personal health, and that’s why we’ve built up this system that works even if the voter refuses to wear a mask.”

Like Shults, Siegrist hopes his crew will ultimately be protected, since they’ll be wearing masks, sitting behind a plastic divider, and sanitizing often. And he’s optimistic that most voters will wear masks, too.

As for voters, if the precautions in place still don’t make them feel safe, then they can apply to vote absentee at their local clerks’ office as late as Election Day, Tuesday August 4th.

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  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.