Fewer polling sites to open for primary

Early voters cast ballots at the Jefferson County Board of Elections. Watertown Daily Times

This year’s Democratic primary must go on, despite a global pandemic.

North country boards of election have instituted a number of changes around this year’s primary elections in light of the pandemic. One major change is a cut to the number of polling sites available.

Jefferson County, which normally has more than 40 open polling sites, will open 26 on Tuesday.

Lewis County will open 17 polling sites, two fewer than usual.

St. Lawrence County will open 42 polling sites, 10 fewer than usual.

Jude Seymour, Republican commissioner for the Jefferson County Board of Elections, said that the decision to open fewer polling places was made for two reasons.

“Firstly, we’re expecting a lower in-person turnout, because we sent absentee ballot applications to all our registered Democrat voters,” he said. “The second thing is that we had a lower number of inspectors who were willing to work, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Absentee voting has seen a boost in popularity. In St. Lawrence County, Democratic Elections Commissioner Jennie Bacon said that more than 7,000 ballots have been sent out.

In Jefferson County, 3,459 ballots have been mailed to Democratic voters.

For those who do choose to vote in person, polling sites have instituted a number of safety measures to ensure that voters have a low risk of contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus.

“Each poll inspector is going to have a mask issued to them,” Mr. Seymour said. “We have a personal bottle of hand sanitizer for each inspector. We are giving them cleaning solution to be used on surfaces and on the styluses used to sign the electronic poll books.”

In St. Lawrence County, sneeze guards will be set up, social distancing will be enforced and the number of people in a polling place at one time will be monitored.

Across the north country, voters are encouraged to wear masks to protect themselves and those working the polls.

“Over 55 percent of our inspectors are age 60 or over, and when you look at the people who are dying or being hospitalized by the virus that tends to be the group,” Mr. Seymour said. “We want to make sure that nobody is spreading the disease to them, and if they are already sick we want to ensure they don’t spread the disease themselves.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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