The Guam Election Commission is preparing for the island’s first elections in a new COVID-19 reality.
It seems no part of our regular routine is immune to COVID-19 — not even our election cycle this year.
GEC staff are finalizing plans, ensuring anyone exercising their civic duty will be as safe as possible from community COVID-spread.
In addition to the 335 precinct officials they’d normally hire, GEC Executive Director Maria Pangelinan says they’re looking for 150 extra poll workers.
“The additional people only report to work at 6:30 am. They will leave when the last voter leaves. Whereas the precinct officials have to proceed to the election return center so they get paid a little more,” Pangelinan said.
She added: “And the biggest difference…and I’ll put it all out, the biggest difference is that the precinct officials are the custodians of those sacred ballots.”
One of the main responsibilities of the additional workers is to help with curbside voters which will look different than previous years.
“They will bring in the photo IDs of the curbside voters to the correct precinct. They will, of course, take your temperature and ask you the right questions. We’re hoping that we have enough secrecy sleeves, they’re plastic, where the voter in the car, can insert their ballot into the secrecy sleeve, and turn it over to the precinct official. The precinct official is still escorted by the poll worker back to the polling room until that ballot is cast in the ballot box,” Pangelinan said.
Keep in mind that curbside voting takes longer than going inside the polling station but it is meant to service those compromised abilities.
Even if you’re walking in to vote, the experience will certainly be different this year.
“Everyone will wear masks. We’re asking everyone to bring their own blue or black pens. We’ll have the signature shields and voting booths disinfected after every voter,” Pangelinan said.
Any voter in line by 8 pm, when the polls close, will get the chance to cast their ballot even if election workers have to stay late because of all the added COVID-precautions.
And starting 30 days before the elections, GEC will begin in-office, with excuse voting for those who can’t make it on election day as well as for people with disabilities and homebound voters
And a little closer to the elections, GEC will start hitting the senior centers, hospitals, and, with COVID in play, the quarantine facilities as well.