Tomorrow's election is like any other in most ways, with some important differences because of the pandemic.
“The polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” says Charlene Meaux-Menard, Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters.
Even those it’s a small election on Saturday, presidential preferences and the like, the process…matters. “If you didn’t have a free and open election system, with unfettered access to the polls, you wouldn’t have a democracy,” offers Charlie Jagneaux, St. Landry Parish Clerk of Court.
And even though we know it’ll be Trump and Biden--- or Biden and Trump---going at it, the ballots can indeed send a message. That goes for the ballots various registrar of voters offices have already received.
In fact, the number of mail-in ballots for Lafayette Parish rose dramatically. 7,522 blank ballots went out; 4,487 came back and will officially be counted. That 4,487 is more than double what Meaux-Menard sees in a normal, non-pandemically influenced election. Meanwhile, in St. Landry Parish, Jagneaux says his mail-in total is about 1,200 ballots, which is nearly four times the normal rate.
It’s clear that COVID-19 has changed the playing field. And that means when you go to your respective precincts, you can expect to see something different.
“It’s going to be quite different,” quickly responds Jagneaux. “The poll workers are going to be wearing protective masks, and protective gear because they have to sit there all day and be exposed to all the voters coming in.”
What to bring. What to do. At first, it’s basic stuff for voters.
“Bring a picture ID to identify you,” explains Meaux-Menard. “You might have to pull your mask down for a second, then pull it back up.”
But know this--- tomorrow’s election has specific party-line restrictions in Lafayette Parish, she adds. “You have to be a registered Republican or registered Democrat. If you are ‘any other party registered’, you cannot vote tomorrow because there are no issues for you.” At least, in Lafayette Parish.
Once you arrive, says our officials: Be smart. Play it safe. Think about others.
“You’ll do your social distancing, please try to wear a mask, and bring your own pen, because you do have to sign the precinct register,” continues Meaux-Menard.
And as you enter the booth? Or you’re waiting in line and waiting for the next available booth? What about Corona health concerns?
Each individual booth, someone will go in and, between voters, wipe everything down. “The secretary of state has provided additional funding for people to sanitize the machine after each vote,” says Jagneaux.
It will indeed be something different. But again, he adds, it’s a part of just how our country works. “And without a democracy, you wouldn’t have court, you wouldn’t have anything. We’d be in a bind then.”