"Masks are recommended, but not required," said Moore County Clerk Brenda McKanna on Wednesday. Early voting for the July 14 party primary runoff election began Monday, and McKanna said 99 voters showed up at the consolidated polling place at the1st Street Annex in Dumas on each of the first two days to cast their ballots. They found some differences in the way the polling is conducted. McKanna and her staff have taken steps to insure that everyone, election workers and voters alike, are protected as much as possible from the virus that has killed 15 people in Moore County and thousands of others across the state and nation.
McKanna says she cannot legally require someone coming to cast a vote to wear a mask, but she strongly advises everyone to wear one. All of the election workers wear masks, and masks are available at the polling place for those who want one. As she said, "You just never know who has the virus. They may not have symptoms, but still be contagious."
Texas Governor Greg Abbott's July 2 Executive Order provides an exemption from wearing a mask, although masks are recommended by the governor. The exemption is for " any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged."
In the hallway outside the voting room, signs have been placed to remind voters to maintain a distance of six feet between themselves and others, and the distance is marked out on the floor with tape. McKanna says so far voters have trickled in over the course of the day, so lines and social distancing have not been an issue. She thinks that might change on the actual election day, July 14, and almost certainly will during the November 5 general election.
McKanna does have the authority to require voters to sanitize their hands before voting, so everyone must make a stop at the sanitizing station set up just outside the door before entering to pick up a ballot.
Once inside, voters will encounter a table with two masked election workers behind a sneeze guard constructed especially for the elections. Voters can have their picture identification and registration status checked without physical contact with workers.
Once they receive a ballot, voters proceed to voting machines that have been separated six feet apart from one another, and they use sanitized "pens" to tap the screen and mark their ballot. That done, the voter takes the ballot across the room and inserts it into a scanner and leaves. McKanna says she had considered the idea of having voters leave through the back of the building to avoid having to go back down the hall to exit the building, but that ended up being impractical. She acknowledges that once enough voters come for their to be a line in the hall, election workers will have to supervise and insure social distancing is followed.
Early voting for all takes place in the 1st Street Annex in Dumas from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm Monday through Thursday and 8:00 am to 12:30 pm on Friday. Early voting ends July 10.
On July 14, voting will still be consolidated in the 1st Street Annex for voters from precincts 101,201,202,203 and 301. Voters from precincts 401 and 402 will be able to vote in the Sunray City Hall.
Voting by mail for those eligible is ongoing. The last day to apply for a ballot by mail was July 2.
McKanna emphasizes that this election is a runoff for the party primary elections that took place in March. Voters must choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary. They may not vote in both, and if they voted in March, they are not allowed to switch parties for the runoff.