Key states battling fear as cases soar
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.