Key states bat­tling fear as cases soar

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY SCOTT BAUER

Ris­ing coron­avirus cases in key pres­i­den­tial bat­tle­ground states a lit­tle more than t wo weeks be­fore Elec­tion Day are the lat­est worry for elec­tion of­fi­cials and vot­ers fear­ing chaos or ex­po­sure to the virus at polling places de­spite months of plan­ning.

The prospect of poll work­ers back­ing out at the last minute be­cause they are in­fected, quar­an­tined or scared of get­ting sick has lo­cal elec­tion of­fi­cials in Mid­west states such as Iowa and Wis­con­sin open­ing more early vot­ing lo­ca­tions, re­cruit­ing backup work­ers and en­cour­ag­ing vot­ers to plan for long lines and other in­con­ve­niences.

Con­firmed virus cases and COVID-19 deaths are on the rise in the swing states of Iowa, Michi­gan, Min­nesota, Penn­syl­va­nia, Ohio and Wis­con­sin.

Wis­con­sin broke records this week for new coron­avirus cases, deaths and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions, lead­ing to the open­ing of a field hos­pi­tal to han­dle over­flow pa­tients. Gov. Tony Evers said he plans to ac­ti­vate the Wis­con­sin Na­tional Guard to fill any staffing short­ages at elec­tion sites.

In Iowa, Scott County Au­di­tor Rox­anna Moritz opened ad­di­tional early vot­ing sites in and around the Daven­port, the state’s third-largest city, to try to re­duce the num­ber peo­ple cast­ing bal­lots on Elec­tion Day and the virus from spread­ing in large precincts.

“We have to re­mem­ber that there is this thing called COVID,” Mor­tiz said. “Our num­bers aren’t get­ting any bet­ter. The more peo­ple I can get to early vote, the bet­ter.”

In some states, vot­ing early still has car­ried health risks. Vot­ers in Ge­or­gia, Texas and else­where en­coun­tered hours­long lines that re­quired con­gre­gat­ing with hun­dreds of other peo­ple this week. In Ge­or­gia, nearly a quar­ter of the work­ers in a ware­house where elec­tion sup­plies are kept and vot­ing equip­ment is read­ied tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19.

De­spite the re­bound of the coron­avirus, vot­ers i n sev­eral Mid­west lined up Fri­day to cast their bal­lots early.

Robert Baccus, 52, an in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor from Colum­bus, Ohio, was among hun­dreds in line at the Franklin County Board of Elec­tions early vot­ing cen­ter.

“It’s a choice be­tween life and death, re­ally,” said Baccus, a sup­porter of Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den. “We could not do it and our votes won’t be counted. It’s a choice I’ve got to make for my chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.”

Sev­eral elec­tion of­fi­cials said they were con­fi­dent they would have enough poll work­ers, san­i­ta­tion sup­plies and pro­tec­tive gear to en­sure Elec­tion Day goes smoothly and safely. But they are also en­cour­ag­ing vot­ers to cast their bal­lots early, if they can.

Of­fi­cials in the bat­tle­ground states re­ported no plans to close polling places, even if virus cases con­tinute to spike.

Vot­ers in Ge­or­gia waited in long lines with­out proper dis­tanc­ing to ast early bal­lots this week.

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