COVID-19 Polling Place Safety Procedures
Minneapolis Elections & Voter Services is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for all voters and election judges. This page contains requirements and best practices for polling places to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The guidelines follow and comply with the City of Minneapolis Enterprise Return to Work Plan, applicable City Emergency Regulations and Governor’s Executive Orders, as well as best practices from the Minnesota Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other appropriate sources.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease believed to spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets from an infected person. Transmission from person-to-person happens most frequently among close contacts (within about 6 feet). Transmission to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented. However, current evidence suggests that COVID-19 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.
Preparations we are taking in advance of Election Day
- Relocate to appropriate polling places, as needed.
We have moved out of polling places that house a vulnerable population (senior home, high-rises, etc.) or those that are too small to implement social distancing.
- Encourage voting by mail to limit direct contact on Election Day.
To minimize direct contact with others, the CDC encourages everyone to vote by mail. We will be following this advice and asking everyone who is willing to vote by mail to do so.
- Inform voters how to plan their polling place visit.
To limit crowd size, try to arrive at off-peak times. This is typically the mid-morning or the early afternoon. Bring a face covering and your own pen, if desired. Avoid sharpies, gel pens and other pens that may bleed through paper.
- Prepare election judges.
All election judges will receive online training on the new protocols, as well as written documentation.
Election Day protocols for voters
- You must wear a face covering.
Following best practices as well as Minneapolis Emergency Regulation No. 2020-12 and the Governor's Emergency Executive Order 20-81, you must wear a face covering or face shield, unless you are exempt due to health reasons. Health reasons include health conditions, disabilities or mental health, developmental, or behavioral needs that make it difficult to tolerate wearing a face covering or shield. If you do not have a face covering or shield, we will give you a disposable mask prior to entry. If you cannot or refuse to wear a face covering, we will have you vote "curbside." That means we will bring you your ballot to your car or to an appropriate location outside. If you refuse to vote curbside, you will be allowed to vote; however, the incident will be documented and reported to appropriate authorities, unless you are exempt from the order.
- You will be given hand sanitizer when you enter and exit.
A sanitizing station will be at the entrance and exit, with signage. Each of you will be asked to apply sanitizer before you enter and again before they exit. If you refuse or for any reason cannot apply the sanitizer (allergy, etc.) you will still be allowed to vote.
- You must observe social distancing.
6’ intervals must be kept as much as possible while inside the polling place. Areas may be marked to indicate the 6’ distance. Voting booths and check-in tables will be spaced at least 6’ apart. At least one table will be available for voters who need assistance (which may require two election judges of different parties) to use so they can maintain social distance as much as possible, rather than crowding around a booth together.
- You will be offered a sanitized pen (or you can bring your own).
You will get a sanitized pen at the polling place entry. You will discard your pen before leaving; election judges will disinfect the pen before being returned to the entrance. You are welcome to bring your own pen, if desired. Avoid sharpies, gel pens and other pens that may bleed through paper.
- You can choose to vote curbside.
If a you cannot easily leave your vehicle for mobility reasons, or because you need to avoid contact with others as a health precaution, you can ask to have a ballot brought out to your car. This is known as 'curbside voting.' Two election judges from different major political parties will be assigned this task. They must sanitize their gloved hands immediately before and after serving a voter curbside, as these voters may be some of the most vulnerable to infection.
- You will be offered a pre-cut “I Voted” sticker placed on a table.
Election judges will pre-cut ‘I Voted’ stickers and place on a table to avoid unnecessary hand-to-hand contact.
Election Day protocols for election judges
- Spend additional time on pre-election polling place setup.
Head and assistant judges typically access the polling place the day before the election for initial setup. This will be more even more important now, so that social distancing marks and other setup requirements can be implemented.
- Election judges showing symptoms of illness must remain home.
Election judges showing signs of illness must not come to the polling place.
- Election judges must wear face coverings.
Election judges and voters must wear face coverings. Election judges will be provided with a KN95 mask and a cloth face covering to choose from; they may also bring their own. They may wear a face shield instead if needed due to a health reason. Health reasons include health conditions, disabilities or mental health, developmental, or behavioral needs that make it difficult to tolerate wearing a face covering.
- Election judges must disinfect their hands during the day.
Election judges must wash their hands with soap or apply sanitizer frequently during the day. At a minimum, this should be done during breaks, after using the restroom, before and after mealtimes, and before and after administering curbside voting.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.
Disinfectant will be provided for judges to apply to all surfaces, including equipment screens. Wipe surfaces before polls open and frequently during the day. Surfaces include voting booths, tables, doorknobs, light switches, poll books, the AutoMARK and the tabulator. To limit the number of high-touch surfaces, prop open doors when possible.
- No potlucks, eating or drinking at workstations, or gathering in small areas.
Election judges often share a potluck meal during the day; for this election that will not be possible. No eating or drinking will be allowed at workstations. Avoid congregating in small break areas.
- Provide clear instructions to voters.
Election judges must make every effort to prepare those standing in line for what to expect inside, such as wearing a face covering and applying sanitizer.
- Seek alternatives to handling materials back and forth.
Handling materials (voter receipts, ballots, etc.) is unavoidable. However, when possible, seek alternatives to handling materials back and forth. For example, if a voter needs to show a residency document on their phone in order to register to vote, the voter can put it on the table for the poll worker to see, rather than handing it over.