Survey results reveal trust in polling place safety

WILMINGTON — Based on a successful primary day, the state is hopeful Election Day will go just as smoothly in regards to voters and poll workers following guidelines put in place to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) on Tuesday revealed the results of a survey sent to poll workers from the primaries on Sept. 15. The response rate to this survey was 92%, said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay during the state’s weekly COVID-19 press briefing.

Poll workers surveyed said they saw 99% of fellow poll workers wearing masks while they observed 98% of voters with masks. The survey also revealed many polling places had extra masks available on-site for voters who did not bring one of their own.

Other survey responses concluded 88% of voting booths were spaced six-feet apart to allow for social distancing, 87% reported visual cues reminding voters to stay six-feet apart and 80% reported one-directional voting flow.

In addition, 91% of respondents said they “frequently or very frequently” observed voters maintaining the recommended six-feet of distance in between one another.

“It’s a good story about what’s going on in our polling places,” Dr. Rattay said. “Voters really came prepared and followed the guidance to keep things safe.”

Regarding sanitizing, 94% of respondents said hand sanitizer was available for workers while 82% said it was available for voters. Additionally, 93% reported cleaning supplies were available and 91% said they frequently observed other poll workers cleaning high-touch surfaces and equipment.

Dr. Rattay said the main area for improvement based on the survey was based on a situation of a person displaying COVID-19 symptoms who shows up to vote.

The DPH recommended additional training, additional stock of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, plus increase use of physical barriers like Plexiglas stands at registration tables.

“It was clear we needed more training on what to do and how to handle the situation safely so individuals can vote without spreading illness to other people,” Dr. Rattay said. “Other than adding maybe additional physical barriers and making sure there’s cleaning and sanitizing available if there’s an ill person, I think the results are very promising.”

COVID isn’t the only concern for voters on Election Day, as Gov. John Carney touched on the potential of both voter intimidation and civil unrest.

Gov. Carney said multiple agencies in the state are in communication regarding voter intimidation with what they are monitoring on social media. Gov. Carney said a majority of what the state has heard on voter intimidation is misinformation from social media sites.

“My own experience is there are enough independent and party-affiliated poll workers that are always at the polling places providing a level of comfort locally,” Gov. Carney said. “They’re mostly locally known people, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican.”

Gov. Carney added he has never seen voter intimidation on Election Day during his political career.

“I’ve never really seen that,” Gov. Carney said. “We see it more on primary day frankly than general elections. So I would just ask people to get out and vote. Exercise your right to vote. There are agencies that are kind of behind the scenes making sure that there are not threats on social media and they are not going to carry through with those threats.”

He also said while the state is making plans to prep for a potential case of civil unrest due to the elections, he does not think Delaware will be one of those cases.

“I’m really very confident that it’s not something we’ll see here,” Gov. Carney said. “Does that mean we’re not preparing for it? No.”

“A lot of the concerns are risen by some of the rhetoric at the national level,” Gov. Carney added. “Some of the threats that we’ve actually seen on social media have been the result of foreign actors which is really disturbing. But I’m confident we’ll be prepared for whatever happens on Election Day and whatever happens after Election Day.”