Polling places getting extra sanitizing attention as COVID-19 cases surge

  • Voters wait in a socially distanced line Friday at the Kane County clerk's office in Geneva.

      Voters wait in a socially distanced line Friday at the Kane County clerk's office in Geneva. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Early voters at the DuPage County fairgrounds building in Wheaton.

      Early voters at the DuPage County fairgrounds building in Wheaton. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/19/2020 9:06 PM

With COVID-19 cases surging in Illinois, voters may be concerned about their safety when heading to the polls to vote in person, but suburban county clerks say they are taking extra precautions while preaching pandemic common sense.

Precautions include placing sneeze guards between election judges and voters, cleaning each voting station between voters, having plenty of hand sanitizer available, and putting social distancing markers in place at polling locations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Of course, voters are encouraged to wear masks.

Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham said while officials can't force a voter to wear a mask, there are signs posted "all over" thanking people for wearing them.

"I'd say 99% of people are wearing masks right now (during early voting)," he said.

Cunningham said his staff has provided poll workers with masks, in addition to face shields, gloves and plastic gowns.

"There's an epidemic of the virus and an epidemic of fear," he said. "We have to counter both of those for our 300,000-plus voters and also our 1,500 judges." What else can voters do?

Lake County Clerk Robin M. O'Connor suggested in a news release that voters bring their own black or blue ink pen (no markers). Even though pens are cleaned between uses in many places, bringing your own will limit your physical contact at the voting site to practically just your paper ballot. She also recommended using the provided disposable stylus for touch-screen ballot marking equipment.

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The Centers for Disease Control website also suggests voting at off-peak hours to avoid large crowds and filling out paperwork in advance, if possible.

Officials say voters should not wipe down electronic voting equipment, as some cleaners and disinfectants can cause damage.

Cunningham said his office is using the most modern cleaning equipment available, similar to what Boeing uses on its airplanes and what the CTA is using on buses.

"I think we're doing everything possible to keep everyone safe," he said.

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