With COVID-19 altering every aspect of our daily lives recently, it’s no surprise that our governmental elections are being affected as well.
Voters in Columbia are selecting City Council and Columbia Public School Board members Tuesday as well as voting on a school district bond issue.
These municipal elections are being conducted with changes to ensure the safety and health of voters.
One obvious difference this year from past elections is that many voters are deciding to stay away from polling sites on election day.
The number of absentee ballots sent out has risen significantly from last year’s election, increasing from 985 to 4,700 ballots, Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon told the Missourian in a telephone interview.
More than 1,000 have already been returned, she said. The deadline for absentee ballots to be turned in to the County Clerk’s Office is 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Absentee ballots will begin being counted before voting begins Tuesday, so even the large number of absentee ballots is not expected to delay the reporting of election results, Lennon said.
Polling locations are another area being affected by these new COVID-19 guidelines and regulations, she said.
When asked if polling sites would follow proper health guidelines and regulations, Lennon replied, “Absolutely.”
Some of these changes voters are likely to encounter at polling places Tuesday include:
- Voting booths will be spaced out according to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
- Poll workers will be wearing masks and have been trained on cleaning and disinfecting the voting booths.
- Plexiglass barriers will separate the voters from the election judges.
The number of polling locations has also decreased, from 45 locations last year to 38 this year. Voters are encouraged to check their voting registration and find the correct polling location by accessing the County Clerk’s online site.
“So we’ve lost several of (the polling sites), but we’ve made up for them by working with Columbia Public Schools and Southern Boone schools,” Lennon saiud.
Some of the locations opted out over concerns over COVID-19, while other locations were unable to host polls because of scheduling conflicts after the postponement of the election.
The elections, which were originally slated for April 7, were postponed to this upcoming Tuesday under an executive order signed by Gov. Mike Parson.
Staffing was originally another concern when the election was postponed.
“It’s definitely a challenge to recruit poll workers anyways,” Lennon said.
“So one of the things we did this year is the youth election participant program that brings high school students into the election experience. They would’ve been working in April, and now we’re utilizing them for June,” Lennon said.
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Polling locations and more information can be found at showmeboone.com/clerk/elections.