Pandemic prompts primary precautions

When Darlington County citizens cast their ballots in the June 9 Primary Elections, they will notice a few procedural changes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
At all polling locations, tape marks will be placed on the floor to suggest safe social distancing positions. Voters will be offered a sanitized ink pen to sign in, or they can use their own pen. Poll workers will provide a single-use cotton swab to tap choices on the touch screen voting machine. 80 percent ethyl alcohol hand sanitizer will be available at all sites. Any extra precautions voters care to take are encouraged, but not necessary.
“If someone wants to wear a mask when they come to vote, that’s fine, but no one will be turned away,” says Hoyt Campbell, director of Darlington County Elections and Registrations.
Also, since many poll workers are retirees or seniors, extra precautions are being taken to ensure their safety. The Elections and Registrations office recently took delivery of over 60 transparent sneeze guard shields, which most workers will sit behind.
“We’re going to have screens up, and we have masks and gloves for them to wear,” says Campbell. “We want to protect them because those are the people that will come in contact with every one of the voters.”
In order to avoid possible crowds, many people are opting to vote absentee (early, but in person) or vote by mail. Due to the pandemic, anyone voting in the June primary can choose to vote absentee by selecting “Reason 18 – State of Emergency” on the application.
Campbell says absentee voting started May 1 in Darlington and May 11 in Hartsville. Though the vote by mail window is nearly closed, absentee voting will continue right up to 5 p.m on June 8.
Two absentee voting locations are open now: the Elections and Registrations office at 131 Cashua Street in Darlington, and Jerusalem Baptist Church on S. Sixth Street in Hartsville. Campbell says absentee voting will even be offered on Saturday, June 6 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. to accommodate those with weekday conflicts.
Though some South Carolina counties are trying to reduce risk of infection by combining precincts or moving polls to large venues, Campbell says Darlington County will change only two polling places. Voters who normally cast their ballots at Darlington’s Cain Elementary will now vote at King Wingate American Legion Hut on Sparks Street, and those who usually vote at Hartsville’s Scott Center will instead head to the Hartsville Skating Arena at 301 S. Marquis Hwy.
For more information, you may contact Darlington County Elections and Registrations at 843-398-4900.

Author: Rachel Howell

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