Bigger polling locations, PPE for all poll workers and social distancing among all voters are among the things Hidalgo County is implementing for the November 3 General Election.
These changes are being implemented to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, county election Administrator Hilda Salinas said.
“We’re being safe, we encourage all our voters to be safe as well,” Salinas said.
During early voting, which starts Tuesday, Oct. 13 and runs through Saturday, Oct. 31, all poll workers will be wearing masks and sanitation stations will be available throughout the 41 early voting locations throughout the county and the 74 Election Day Locations.
“There will be minimal contact with voters and poll workers,” Salinas said. “We will also give out disposable styluses so the voters don’t touch the screen themselves and they can throw it away afterward.”
To ensure that proper social distancing will be in place to keep six feet of distance among all voting machines, many polling locations will be held in bigger areas such as school gyms or city recreational centers that allow for a higher occupancy.
Among these new spaces is Edinburg’s Bert Ogden Arena which has an occupancy limit of more than 7,600. The amount of voters allowed at the arena at a time-and at other polling locations-has yet to be determined
Voters will get to use this space on Election Day to cast their vote, Salinas said.
“There’s going to be a lot of signage at the parking lot directing people to the south hall of the arena where people will enter to get in to vote,” Salinas said.
Due to state and federal mandates, the elections department can only encourage voters to wear a mask and can’t force voters to wear one.
“We cannot turn a voter away, everyone has to be allowed to vote” Salinas said. “Those not wearing a mask will be directed to an area away from the voting machines with masked voters so they can cast their ballots.”
Those who are either 65 or older, expected to be absent from the county or with a disability can also request an absentee ballot from the county so they can vote by mail and drop off the ballots at the county elections office at 213 S. Closner Blvd. in Edinburg. Those turning in ballots must have their voter registration card or a proof of I.D. when they deliver the ballot.
“We have so many different options and are encouraging voters to take advantage of early voting, and vote as early as possible, Salinas said. “Early voting will run an extra week this season and we ask those voting by mail to fill it out as soon as possible to reach our office in a timely manner.”
Those not wishing to get out of their vehicle at a polling location can request curbside voting once they arrive at the polling location, Salinas said.
“It’s an option that we’ve always offered but we expect requests of it to dramatically increase in this election cycle,” Salinas said. “This is usually used by our voters with disabilities but it’s one of the many things we will be offering to allow people to vote safely. It’ll be up t the voter to decide how they want to vote.”