FORT WORTH, Texas — Dallas and Tarrant counties have seen high numbers of absentee and early voters. and still expect sizeable turnout at polls Tuesday.
The two counties have seen a combined 115,000 early voters plus 38,000 absentee votes, about two or three times normal for a Democratic runoff.
Heider Garcia is the Tarrant County elections administrator. He says most counties are providing poll workers with masks, gloves, face shields and dividers. They’re also offering voters masks and supplying sanitizing stations.
“Everybody’s concerned about being out there and being exposed,” Garcia said. “Don’t be exposed. Cut the time down by having your ID ready, knowing what you’re voting on it and just going straight to it.”
But using masks is optional for both workers and voters.
“We’re sanitizing the pens. We’re sanitizing the booth. We’re doing everything we can to keep the voter safe,” said Angie White, a poll worker in Denton County.
Because of her age, White is squarely in the at-risk category. She says most voters are wearing masks, though some have refused them.
“Which was discouraging, because we’re doing everything to protect ourselves and protect them,” White said. “I’m really having second thoughts about doing it in November.”
Dallas County election officials said they had a tough time finding poll workers. They’re down nearly 200 polling locations from normal, but that’s partially because of a lack of need. Tarrant County closed two locations because of a lack of workers.
“I wouldn’t say it was drastically different, Garcia said. “In the last two weeks, there’s always that 'I’m in, I’m out.'”
They’re reminding people to check online to make sure they know where to vote and know which locations are open.
Workers make sure any lines are distanced.
Dallas and Tarrant counties considered separating voters with or without masks. Both decided against it, but are discussing it as an option for November.
“We don’t any voter to feel singled out or sent to the corner, the bad kids corner,” Garcia said.
Statewide, daily case counts are 10 times higher than when elections were postponed in May because of the virus that hasn’t gone away.
“I think with the precautions we have in place, everyone will be well-protected,” Garcia said.