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500 PBC Poll Workers Could Skip Primary; Debate Set for Sunday

Nearly 500 of Palm Beach County’s 3,500 poll workers are unlikely to show up for work on Tuesday because of fears of the coronavirus, according to Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link.

However, her office has been training replacements and expects to have at least 3,200 workers to deploy to the county’s 454 polling locations on Election Day. She held six training sessions on Friday and two more on Saturday.

Some of the poll workers, many of whom are over age 60 — which puts them in the category most vulnerable to the virus — quit out of fear of catching the virus, or because their doctor recommended it, Link says.

“We probably overstaffed for the election to begin with because we have new equipment,” she adds. “I wanted as many people to use it as possible,” as training for the far heavier turnout expected in November’s presidential election.

To assure cleanliness at the polls, Link is supplying workers with bleach, hand sanitizer and gloves, and is ordering them to wipe down equipment and surfaces at least once per hour.

If a voter comes in with a cough, her staff will not ask them to leave. Rather, “Hopefully people will be quick. Get them in, get them out. Poll workers would wipe up after that person.”

Voters may bring their own pens, black ink preferably.

“Rovers” and election clerks will restocking polling places that run out of supplies such as sanitizer and hand wipes.

Early voting ends at 16 sites across the county at 6 p.m. Sunday, although voters can still pick up absentee ballots at elections headquarters at Military Trail just south of Southern Boulevard. Voters may also assign a family member or friend to pick up a ballot if they sign an affidavit, which is available at pbcelections.org.

Absentee ballots are available until 5 p.m. Monday, and must be returned by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Link’s office has mailed letters to voters in the 17 precincts at assisted living facilities that have been moved telling them where they must vote on Tuesday.

Despite the circumstances, more Floridians are taking advantage of early voting this year than in 2016.

Statewide, nearly 526,000 voters — 64 percent of them Democrats — cast ballots at early voting sites through Saturday. In 2016, early voting drew a total of 538,000 voters.

About 29,000 early votes had been cast in Palm Beach County through Saturday morning, just past the total of 28,889 from four years ago. Additionally, 80 percent of the county’s early voters were registered Democrats.

As of Saturday afternoon, 1.27 million Floridians had cast vote-by-mail ballots, 51 percent of them Republicans, the Florida Division of Elections reported.

In Palm Beach County, 77,800 votes had been cast by mail, 63 percent of them from Democrats. Palm Beach County has nearly one-million registered voters.

The four states holding presidential primaries on Tuesday — Florida, Arizona, Illinois and Ohio — will not postpone their elections because of coronavirus outbreaks, according to officials from those states.

The Democratic primary includes former Vice President Joe Biden against Sen. Bernie Sanders, along with more than a dozen other candidates, many of whom have dropped out.

On the Republican side, while President Trump is the presumed nominee, the Florida ballot actually includes three contestants.

Aside from the presidential primary, 20 Palm Beach County municipalities have races and referendums on Tuesday’s ballot, which is open to residents of any political party or none, but they must live within their city’s limits. The presidential primary is open to registered Republicans and Democrats.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the 11th Democratic presidential debate is set to take place Sunday.

In an effort to prevent further transmission of the virus, the Democratic National Committee announced last Thursday that it will hold the debate in Washington, D.C., with no live audience, rather than the original planned location of Arizona, which is one of four states voting on Tuesday.

The debate is being hosted at 8 p.m. ET by CNN, and will take place at the network’s studios.

It will be moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash and Jake Tapper and Univision’s Ilia Calderón.