Illinois health officials provide guidance for state polling locations

Ahead of the November 3rd election, the Illinois Department of Public Health has issued guidance to help protect the safety and health of voters.

“Voting is a right and a privilege,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, in a news release. “While the safest way to cast a ballot this year is voting by mail, we are and will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that Illinoisans can exercise their right to vote in person, in the safest possible environments during this COVID-19 pandemic.”

IDPH says all local election authorities will be required to develop written COVID-19 prevention plans for all polling sites within their jurisdiction. Health officials say the plans should contain specific COVID-19 safety and training instructions along with the names of people responsible for implementation of the plan.

Health officials strongly encourage election authorities to relocate polls previously housed in long-term care facilities and senior living residences to protect voters and residents.

According to the guidelines IPDH released, all locations will have signage to encourage voters to wear masks and maintain a distance of 6 feet, while inside the polling places. If voters show up to a polling place without a mask, election authorities are required to offer them a face covering outside of the polling place. Polling booths will be set up at least 6 feet apart and foot traffic will flow in one direction.

Additional recommended preventative actions in the guidance include: using Plexiglas barriers between election officials and voters, large print instructions to facilitate communication, routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, and polling place personnel to remind voters to maintain physical distance.

IDPH says while election officials are prohibited from preventing a voter without a face covering from casting a ballot, the guidance requires they take every reasonable action to separate non-compliant voters, ensuring they are socially distanced from those voters who are compliant.

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