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While a record number of voters are voting by mail, the bulk of voters will make their ways to the polls on Nov. 3. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
While a record number of voters are voting by mail, the bulk of voters will make their ways to the polls on Nov. 3. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Here’s how Philly is keeping polls safe from COVID-19 on Election Day

Wear a mask, social distance, expect long lines, and vote. That’s the bottom line.

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It’s no doubt this election cycle has been nowhere near normal. From a madman incumbent to a derailed US Postal Service, to long voting lines — all during the health crisis of a generation.

As the nation continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, Philadelphia city officials are ensuring polling locations on Nov. 3 will be fully-equipped, staffed, and operational to conduct safe venues for Philadelphians to exercise their constitutional rights.

“If everyone follows just a few steps, voting will be okay for voters and poll workers.”

That was Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. He, along with City Commissioner Chair Lisa Deeley, City Commissioner Omar Sabir, and City Commissioner Al Schmidt provided a briefing on COVID-19 precautions for Nov. 3.

Farley highlighted the following steps, precautions, and expectations: 
  1. Most important, wear a mask to the polling place, while you’re waiting in line to vote, while voting, and afterward.
  2. “Stay six feet away from others, both indoors and outdoors,” Farley stressed, even if you’re wearing a mask and even if you’re outdoors.
  3. Expect to wait outside for long periods of time until you’re ready to vote. Poll workers will be facilitating polling traffic and ensuring a safe number of voters are allowed inside polling locations.
  4. Voters will be provided disposable gloves to vote. 
  5. Spend no more than is necessary to vote. That means no lingering and no chatting with other voters. Farley says to take as much time as you need to vote — “We don’t want to curtail that”— but unnecessary traffic should be mitigated.
  6. If you wake up on the voting day with symptoms, tell a poll worker to ensure you have a safe way to vote. You can still vote, but there will be a procedure in place to ensure the safety of everybody.
  7. “Rovers,” trained by the health department, will be present to ensure healthy procedures are in place.

 

Additionally, Dr. Farley told AL DÍA  there will be bilingual posters with COVID-19 safety tips posted at polling locations. 

Deeley added there will be translators available at polling stations for voters that request the additional resource. 

Language barriers have always been a struggle for non-English speakers, especially during a voting season. That’s been further highlighted when it comes to voting by mail. For this reason, Philadelphia residents who don’t speak English will likely be voting in person, if at all. 

Voters with limited English proficiency have difficulty navigating the mail-in voting process, and governmental voter outreach is susceptible to missing them, reported ProPublica.

In the poorest big city in America, this is especially true, and it puts Latinx voters at a particular disadvantage considering the damage caused by the pandemic.

By and large, COVID-19 has taken more Latinx jobs, lives, and has devastated the demographic’s growing small business economy. Now, many are skeptical about heading to the polls.

But the city is trying to ensure that skeptic’s concerns are lessened through the election process. First, by highlighting the translation resources available to voters, highlighting health measures, and also through making the mail-in ballot-counting process transparent. 

The City of Philadelphia has also released an Election Day Guide in multiple languages ahead of Nov. 3, stressing that polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you’re in line by 8 p.m., you must be allowed to vote.

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