Voters told to prepare for COVID-19 protocols

Messages encouraging residents to vote have popped up across the city, including on this newsstand on 5th Street near Olney Avenue in Olney.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

If it’s cold Tuesday, bundle up.

People voting in-person on Election Day may have to wait outside to cast their vote as part of a series of protocols aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus at the polls.

Voters will also receive a disposable glove, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Thursday, which they will be instructed to use when they sign in and select their candidates on the machines.

Anyone who wakes up with a fever or is experiencing any other COVID-19-related symptoms should tell poll workers when they arrive at voting sites, he added.

Election employees will provide them with an emergency absentee ballot, which they can complete outside the polling place. If they insist on using the voting machines, poll workers will clear out the building so they can vote, Farley said.

In addition, voters will be asked to mask up and keep their distance, and poll watchers could be refused entry if they don’t have a face covering.

Health department employees, Farley said, will be roving between voting locations to answer questions.

The City Commissioners Office Thursday also released its plan for publishing the results of the election.

Pennsylvania is expected to play a key role in deciding who wins the White House, and turnout in deeply Democratic Philadelphia could tilt proceedings in the direction of former Vice President Joe Biden.

If everything runs smoothly, city elections officials should be releasing the tally of all mail-ballots scanned on Election Day shortly after the polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Additional results will be released in batches between 9:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesday, and twice a day in the following days.

The deluge of mail-in ballots — 2.1 million have been returned in Pennsylvania so far — means it could be days before it’s known who wins the state.

“We will have accurate results, even if that takes a little longer than normal,” Gov. Tom Wolf told reporters Thursday afternoon.

Republicans have been challenging a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that allows mail-in ballots to be counted as long as they arrive by Friday, Nov. 6, and there’s not a “preponderance of evidence” they were mailed after Election Day.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a GOP request to have an expedited review of the appeal before Tuesday, but the justices could decide on the case after the polls close.

“A 3 day extension for Pennsylvania is a disaster for our Nation, and for Pennsylvania itself,” President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday. “The Democrats are trying to steal this Election.”

State Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has advised counties to segregate mail-in ballots that arrive after 8 p.m. Tuesday, though she said they will still be tallied for now.

“Under the current status of things, they will be counted,” Boockvar said. “I’m not going to game out what could happen if another filing changes things.”

Boockvar and Wolf have been urging voters who still haven’t sent in their mail-in ballots to not rely on the U.S. Postal Service.

In Philadelphia, people can drop off their ballots at 17 satellite election offices or 11 24/7 drop boxes. For more information, including a complete list of locations, go to www.philadelphiavotes.com.

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