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Detroit plans to keep poll workers, voters safe from virus

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, right, speaks to reporters Thursday in Detroit about the city’s preparations for Tuesday’s primary election. Elections officials in Detroit are preparing for challenges that come with voting during a national health crisis that has left more than 150,000 Americans dead. City Clerk Janice Winfrey told reporters Thursday that all of Detroit’s 503 voting precincts will be open, equipped with sanitizing stations and face masks aimed at slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.(AP photo)

DETROIT — Elections officials in Detroit are preparing for the challenges that come with voting during a national health crisis that has killed more than 150,000 Americans.

All of Detroit’s 503 voting precincts will be open and equipped with sanitizing stations and face masks to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, City Clerk Janice Winfrey told reporters Thursday.

“We know there are some people who don’t want to wear a mask,” she said. “If you don’t want to wear a mask, you don’t have to, and you can still vote a regular ballot.”

Electing leaders only is part of the task. Keeping voters and poll workers safe is the other.

“How safe our workers and voters feel will determine if they return in the fall for the November general election,” said Winfrey, who wore a face mask and was flanked by staff who also wore them.

The city will also test two drive-thru voting sites. If the pilot program goes well, it could be expanded in November.

“An individual who wants to vote can drive their car up,” Winfrey said.

An election worker would need to verify the driver’s license and collect a filled-out application, she said. The driver would then be able to vote inside their car, only leaving the vehicle to feed the ballot into a tabulator.

A 20% voter turnout is expected Tuesday in Detroit. About 40,000 people are expected to vote in person. About 50,000 absentee ballots have been returned, while another 5,000 to 10,000 mail-in are expected to be returned by Tuesday.

Winfrey said anyone who has not yet mailed in their absentee ballot should drop it off at a voting center or drop box because the U.S. Postal Service notified her office that it can’t guarantee that all will be delivered by Tuesday’s Election Day deadline.

President Donald Trump continues to push unsubstantiated allegations that increased mail-in voting due to the pandemic will result in fraud. On Thursday, he floated the idea of delaying the Nov. 3 presidential election — an idea criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike.

“In my opinion, whenever you put out information that is not proven, it’s a form of voter suppression,” Winfrey said. “When you put fear into people they have a tendency to not move. So, those are fear tactics. It’s to be ignored because there has been no evidence in the city of Detroit that voter fraud has ever taken place with absentee voting or any other kind of vote.”

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