COLUMBIA Mo. (KMIZ)
Boone County voters can expect a new voting experience at polling places for this coming municipal election, according to Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon.
The COVID-19 pandemic and statewide restrictions pushed the initial April 7 election date to June 2. Lennon says the delay gave her office time to prepare for new standards.
"Having the extra time, being able to adjust to this new normal has made all the difference," Lennon said.
Poll volunteers are expected to wear face masks, gloves and face shields. Lennon said they also plan to adjust for social distancing by keeping voting booths six feet apart and marking six-foot increments on the floor. Plexiglass will divide voters from election judges and touch screen poll booths will be wiped down between voters.
"There's a little bit of a learning curve, and we anticipate that this is going to be, you know, kind of our new normal for 2020," Lennon said.
Boone County will have 38 polling locations open June 2. Voters can find their polling place by going to vote.boonemo.org. Lennon said voters should make sure to check the website because some locations had to cancel due to conflicts or concerns about COVID-19.
The last day to register for mail-in absentee voting is May 20. Lennon said they have already sent out over 1,800 absentee ballots, more than double the amount they've sent out in years past. You can apply for an absentee ballot on vote.boonemo.org or fill out the application on the back of the sample ballot.
As for day of voting, Lennon says voters will see the classic paper ballots as well.
"We do have still our regular paper ballot system," Lennon said. "When you go to check in at the polling place, there's still an iPad, we will have styluses there so people don't have to touch the screens with their hands, and if people do elect to use the touchscreen ballot marking device, we'll have somebody there to make sure that it is cleaned off in between voters and kept sanitized, so that people can use it."
Lennon said the new sanitary standards shouldn't affect timeliness. She projects only around 10% of Boone County voters will vote compared to the normal 20-25% average.
"The April, local elections are generally pretty low turnout and we've gotten a fair number of absentee requests already so I don't think that it will be a very long wait for voters at all, especially because the ballot is very short," Lennon said. "In a lot of cases voters will only see one or two questions on their ballot."
Lennon said she is working with the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities and will be referring to CDC polling place recommendation guidelines on election day.
"I think there's still a lot of uncertainty amongst voters about going out into a public space and casting a ballot and that, in addition to the fact that we normally have a lower turnout for an April election," Lennon said. "I think those two factors combined are just going to work, we're going to end up seeing fewer voters at polls than we're used to."
One of the major items on the Boone County ballot is a $20 million bond issue for renovations to Columbia Public Schools' facilities.