Election officials in both Taney and Stone counties have been hard at work training election judges and preparing polling locations to help keep voters safe during the Missouri Primary on Tuesday, Aug. 4.
Taney County Clerk Donna Neeley said that as her office was preparing for this election, the No. 1 item on their list was the purchase of sneeze screens.
“We we’re able to bid out and purchase sneeze screens for each polling place, so that will keep the separation between, of course, both the judge and the voter,” said Neeley. “We’ll have the same sanitizer, face masks and shields, and the judges will have to have one or the other, but at least one.
“We will also have little yellow strips on the floor to separate people out by six-feet apart every so often and to just help remind people to keep their distance from one another.”
Neeley added that, if she has any extra election judges available come Tuesday’s election, they will be assigned to do extra cleaning at the polling places.
“Like cleaning poll booths, cleaning pens and secrecy sleeves, otherwise the people will just have to wait until the regular judges have time to do it. They will have to use sanitizer in-between each user. They’ll sanitize the screen in-between each user, and we ordered a large amount of pens, so as people have time to clean them, they’ll just stop to clean 10 or 15 real quick,” said Neeley. “As they have time, they’ll try to get out and clean the poll booth, but honestly, there isn’t enough time to clean it between each voter.”
Neeley said, due to the lack of election judges for this primary, she asks that voters be patient and understanding.
“Most of our polling places are only going to have four judges where they should have six or eight judges,” Neeley said. “You have to have a minimum of two Republicans and two Democrats at every polling place. We’ve got 11 polling places that are only going to have four judges, and so the remaining nine will be varied.
“Some of them I’ve got five, and some of them I have six.”
Also due to the pandemic, Neeley explained that there have been a few location changes to a handful of polling places, including the North Branson precinct.
“At the Branson High School … they’re voting at the activities center rather than in the gym,” Neeley said. “It has its own parking lot, and its own entrance. The school is supposed to be putting up signs for us, and of course, we’ll have our ‘Vote Here’ signs out.”
Neeley added that the Walnut Shade precinct has moved from the Life Christian Center to Brookside Church at the intersection of F Highway and U.S. 160. The Mount Branson precinct has also moved polling locations by just a few hundred feet, and is now being held at Tantone Industries. For the Hollister 2 precinct, the polling place has moved from the front of the Hollister Middle School to the back of the middle school.
The pandemic has also led to the merger of two polling places in eastern Taney County.
“It used to be Kissee Mills voters and Taneyville voters, but I’ve merged them together to make the Forsyth/Taneyville Polling Place,” said Neeley. “The Nazarene Church isn’t hosting us anymore, so we decided to merge Taneyville Village voters with the Kissee Mills voters and create what’s called the new Forsyth/Taneyville Polling Place, and it’s there at the New Vision Church on Church Camp Road.”
In Taney County, there will be a total of 20 polling locations.
Neeley said she is predicting an estimated 45% voter turnout for this primary, and Taney County has currently accepted more than 600 absentee ballots as of press time.
Stone County Clerk Cindy Elmore said her office is also taking several safety precautions to help keep election workers and voters healthy.
“So what we’re doing providing for the poll workers is, they will have face shields, they have the option of face masks. Our poll workers are sitting behind a plexiglass shield. The poll pad people will sign in on will be cleaned after each use and sanitized. Pens will be sanitized,” said Elmore. “The same things we did in June, only we’re on a larger scale because all of our poll locations are open right now. So we are taking every precaution that we can.”
Following the success of curbside voting back in June, Elmore said they are bringing it back again for this election.
“We’re really encouraging curbside voting for people who are at that age where they could be at a higher risk. We will have designated signs at each of our polling locations, and we’ll have somebody watching from the door,” said Elmore. “If somebody comes up and doesn’t want to get out of the car to go vote, they can stay in their car, and two poll workers will come out and vote them in the privacy of their own car.”
Elmore said Aug. 3 will be the final day for absentee voting at the Stone County Courthouse, for which they’re also offering a curbside voting option.
“We’ve passed the point where we can mail out an absentee ballot, but people can come to the courthouse, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and absentee vote here on the third floor,” Elmore said. “They can also pull up and call. There’s a number on the front door at the courthouse, and they can actually call and say, ‘Hey, can you come to the car.’ We’ll go down and do curbside voting for everybody. We’re really, really encouraging curbside voting during this period. We’re open Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Monday from 8 a.m. 5 p.m.”
Elmore said they’ve not had to make any changes to the customary polling locations, but from their normal 21 polling places they have combined a few of them to bring the number of places down to 16.
“I just want them to be aware that the county clerk’s office and all of our poll workers are taking all of the precautions to make everything as comfortable and easy as possible,” Elmore said.
Elmore added that she is predicting about a 50% voter turnout for this election in Stone County.