Election Worker Safety Questions & Answers

Every day, we are assessing how the coronavirus might impact elections workers, voters, and our staff. Below are answers to some of the common questions election workers have asked.

Is there a contingency plan for the election?

Governor Ricketts and Secretary of State Evnen are committed to having polling places open for voters on Election Day. Elections are an essential function of our democracy even during times of crisis. An example from our own history, Nebraska still held elections during the pandemic of 1918, keeping our democracy intact.

How are you handling the 10-person limit?

Because our elections are an essential function, the Nebraska Directed Health Measure exempts election offices and polling places on Election Day from the restriction on gatherings of 10 or more people. However, we will follow the restriction whenever possible. The importance of our elections is also why the federal government has designated election workers as part of the essential workforce for our country during the current health crisis.

What are you doing to protect poll workers?

We take the safety of election workers, voters, and our staff very seriously. Election workers will be serving at polling places across the county and at the Election Commission office. We are implementing measures to reduce the possibility of exposure. Below are some examples of measures for polling places:

  • We are encouraging citizens to vote by mail.
    All voters registered at their current address were mailed an application to request a ballot to be mailed (if they have not already submitted an application). We are encouraging all voters to request a ballot and vote by mail for the health and safety of poll workers and other voters. We are using multiple communication channels to share this message, speaking to news media and community leaders, posting on social media, etc. We expect voter turnout at polling places to be reduced by this push for voting by mail.
  • We are providing personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.
    Each polling place will receive a safety kit containing cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (commonly referred to as PPE). It includes face masks*, gloves, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. Instructions for how and when these supplies will be used will be in the Election Manual, which will be available to election workers shortly before Election Day. This will include a cleaning schedule to ensure that surfaces touched by voters and election workers, such as voting booths, ballot sleeves, etc., are cleaned regularly. *The face masks are rated N95, which removes 95 percent of very small particles, and are commonly used in medical settings.
  • We are giving each voter their own pen.
    Each voter will be given a pen to sign the poll book and then mark their ballot choices. The pen cannot be returned. The voter can keep or dispose of the pen.
  • We are developing protocols and procedures for both election workers and voters.
    We are working with the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office and other entities to develop protocols and procedures for election workers and voters on Election Day. The voting process may look different as we incorporate social distancing whenever possible. This will include how voters interact with election workers and how voters conduct themselves while waiting to vote and while they are voting. These protocols and procedures will be included in the Election Manual, which will be available to election workers shortly before Election Day.
  • We are making allowances for medically vulnerable election workers.
    Our election workforce is comprised of volunteers and draftees. Volunteers make up more than 50 percent of that workforce. Many of our volunteers are older adults and some have medical issues that may make them particularly vulnerable. Many of these volunteers are comfortable working, but some are not and have chosen not to work. As for draftees who might be vulnerable, we will postpone their election duty if they provide documentation from a physician.

What are you doing in your office?

We are implementing similar safety measures for staff and election workers who are assigned to the Election Commission office on Election Day. These measures include the following:

  • We expanded cleaning services and routines.
    Surfaces are regularly cleaned and, in the case of commonly used surfaces, cleaned multiple times. Disinfectant wipes, spray cleaners (rated to kill viruses), and hand sanitizer are available throughout the office.
  • We are practicing social distancing.
    Late last year, we moved into a larger facility, which makes it possible for us to hire more temporary staff to answer voters’ questions and process paperwork: voter registration applications, by-mail voting applications, etc. The larger facility also makes it possible for us to practice social distancing -- something that would have been impossible in our previous facility. These practices will be used for election workers assigned to the Election Commission office on Election Day.
  • We are providing personal protective equipment to staff and election workers.
    Currently, we provide gloves to our staff, particularly to those who regularly handle paperwork from the public. On Election Day, gloves and N95-rated face masks will be provided to staff and election workers assigned to the commission office on Election Day. Some of our staff are already wearing face masks if they feel it necessary.
  • Best Practices
    In addition to cleaning surfaces and using PPE, we constantly reiterate the importance of handwashing, covering coughs, etc. We also meet regularly to address issues and concerns (of course, doing so while practicing social distancing). We may be working at a distance but are together in our efforts to administer proper and fair elections to the voters of Douglas County.

Please keep in mind that the situation is fluid. While we cannot account for all possibilities of exposure, we can control what we can and plan for what we cannot.

As always, we are committed to your safety. If you have any other questions or concerns, please share them with us.

Thank you for your service to the voters of Douglas County.