For county officials and those who oversee and operate the polling stations in their local municipalities, election days are marathons.

After days of preparations, election day begins with set-up before the polls open at 7 a.m., continues for 13 hours until the polls close at 8 p.m., and doesn’t end until voting data is forwarded to the county election office for tabulations.

All of that occurs on a normal election day. And as we all know, election days will be anything but normal this year.

County election officials are busy right now setting up procedures for the June 2 primary election that will not only ensure the voters can exercise their right to vote, but do so safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Polling locations will be organized to follow guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control — including social distancing and sanitizing procedures — to help prevent any spread of the coronavirus. These procedures include sanitizing the voting machines between uses, maintaining social distancing among all of the people within the location and ensuring that everyone who can wear a facial mask does so.

Debbie Bilger, director of elections in Snyder County, said there will be plexiglass “sneeze guards” between voters and election workers. Hospital-grade cleaning supplies will be in place at every polling location and facial masks, as well as gloves, will be available for all poll workers.

“We have purchased individual pens for each voter” to complete their paper ballot, Bilger said. “After voting, they will take their pen with them. And a hand sanitizer will be offered to each voter.”

Greg Katherman, election director in Union County, noted that every poll worker will be wearing a mask and there will be sanitizers for voters coming and going.

Election personnel will be wiping down-ballot marking devices each time they are used, and shields will be in place to help separate voters and poll workers, Katherman said. “We will do what we can to mitigate the transmission of the virus.” 

All of these efforts will be completed in addition to duties necessary to run the election, a task with added complications in Montour, Northumberland and Snyder counties, where new voting machines will be used for the first time.

Any voter who prefers not to visit a polling station has the option to vote by mail, but the application for mail-in ballots must be filed by 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 26. Voters can apply by contacting their county election office or visiting online — votespa.com — a website operated by the state.

All of the people who organize and carry out the duties necessary to stage any election are marathon runners. This year, we especially appreciate their time, expertise and dedication to ensure that every citizen has a safe and comfortable opportunity to carry out their right to vote.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.

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