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DECISION 2020: Oklahoma election leaders work to keep voters safe from COVID-19 at the polls

Posted at 8:28 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 00:38:37-04

TULSA, Okla. — Coronavirus changed the landscape of in-person voting for elections. State and county election leaders in Oklahoma said keeping voters and poll workers safe from COVID-19 is their top priority on Nov. 3.

“The bottom line is we’ve got the safety protocols in place. They’ve been very effective in the first two elections they’ve been used in," Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said.

Ziriax and Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Gwen Freeman said June's primary election and the runoff in August were two successful trial runs for the general election.

"We did find out a lot about how to conduct an election during a pandemic," Freeman said.

Freeman told 2 Works for You their COVID-19 safety measures include a required six feet of distance between voters, mandating poll workers wear masks, and constant sanitizing of voting stations.

She said each voter will even get their own pen to fill out a ballot.

"We're trying to take every measure possible," Freeman said.

The extra precaution plus the possibility of historic voter turnout for the presidential election has election leaders warning voters about wait times.

Ziriax and Freeman said getting to the polls as early as possible is a voter's best bet. They also ask in-person voters to practice patience.

Voters concerned about COVID-19 that still want to cast their vote in-person can do so at ONEOK Field. Election leaders chose the open-air facility as the sole early-voting location for safer coronavirus accomodations.

Ziriax told 2 Works for You he can't establish a mask mandate for voters at polls but he "strongly recommends" they wear one.

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