Here’s what’s being done to make in-person early voting in Texas safer during COVID-19

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Preparations for this year’s primary runoff elections in Texas have required more work than usual.

Elections officials are adding new procedures and sanitation measures to prevent COVID-19 transmissions.

While specifics vary by county, they all share one common goal: minimizing contact.

“If we’re going to vote inside, it must be absolutely as safe as humanly possible,” Travis County Clerk Dana Dana DeBeauvoir explained. “So we’re going to ask for masks. We want you to wear masks, we want you to sanitize your hands. When you get inside the polling place, voters will not have to touch any of the equipment and we’ll show you how we’ve worked around that.”

DeBeauvoir said each polling location will be receiving a toolkit full of PPE in Travis County, like the one pictured below.

A PPE kit that will be sent to polling locations in Travis County. (Maggie Glynn/Nexstar)

Many of the tools that will be issued to voters are single-use items, like finger cots, which cover your finger while using a tablet.

“So what you do is you sign your name, and then when you’re finished with it, you just take it off and throw it away,” DeBeauvoir explained.

At the booth, Travis County voters will use popsicle sticks.

“What you’re going to do is use the popsicle stick to touch the screen so that your hands never have to touch any of the equipment,” DeBeauvoir said.

She said the county has also made sure they have plenty of staff available, as about 80 staffers called out sick on election day in March.

“We have made an extra effort to recruit new newer people into the process. Which is always great to have younger folks, and perhaps we can offer some of our judges who are seniors the opportunity to work in a little less risky environment,” DeBeauvoir explained.

The League of Women Voters in Austin has also helped recruit new poll workers here.

In Lubbock County, instead of popsicle sticks, they’ll be handing out pencils.

“You’ll be given a pencil and you’ll use the eraser end to use for as a stylus,” Lubbock County Elections Administrator Dorothy Kennedy said.

Lubbock County will also be minimizing contact at check-in, and sanitizing the polling stations frequently.

In El Paso County, disposable marking utensils will also be given out, and curbside voting will be available to those who need it.

Potter County will also be offering curbside voting, but that isn’t something new.

“Curbside voting has been used for a while, but it’s not used en masse,” Potter County Elections Administrator Melynn Huntley said.

Early voting was expanded by Governor Greg Abbott back in the spring due to the coronavirus.

On Monday, the Governor said he still felt it was safe to vote in-person.

“I increased the length of time for early voting, so that more people would have a long period of time to gather for the purpose of voting. Meaning that they could go into voting sites with them being less crowded,” Gov. Abbott said.

“Second, as we are talking about today. It is important for people to wear masks, when they go out especially in congregated in areas like the individual voting location,” Abbott explained. “And so, we believe that if people take the time to vote early, and when they do some wear a mask, it really shouldn’t pose, much of a problem with regard to being exposed to COVID-19.”

Early voting begins June 29, and runs through July 10. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is July 2. Election day itself is July 14.

For information about finding a voting location in your area, click here.

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