HOUSTON - Early voting begins on Tuesday and things will be a little different this year due to the pandemic. The Harris County Clerk gave a tour to the media Friday showing what to expect when you visit the polls.
The clerk’s office has created a way to avoid any physical contact while you’re voting, and part of it involves a rubber finger cover. Everyone voting will get one when they show up at their polling location.
“I’m gonna use this finger that’s now covered to sign in, so I’m never physically touching this machine,” said Harris
County Clerk Chris Hollins.
RELATED: How do I find my polling location?
A finger cover, along with Plexiglas barriers, six-foot markers, and contactless ID checks are all part of the 2020 voting protocol in Harris County to help avoid the spread of COVID-19. Of course, masks are mandated too.
“Because we’re wearing a mask, they ask you to lower it very briefly to identify you,” Hollins said, demonstrating how to hold up your ID so the poll worker can see it through the Plexiglas, then lower your mask for face comparison.
The tour of the new protocol took place at NRG Arena, which will be one of the polling places that will open for early voting on Tuesday and is the only location where mail-in ballots can be dropped off.
“We’ve sent out over 200,000 mail ballots, and we’ve gotten back about 10,000 so far,” said Hollins. “But they’ve just hit mailboxes, and they’re starting to come in more and more--multiple loads of those.”
RELATED: What photo ID do I need to vote?
The clerk’s office is seeing an unprecedented number of poll worker applicants this year--40,000 since they began taking applications in July.
“We’ve never had that many,” said Roxanne Werner, director of community relations for the Harris County Clerk’s Office.
“That is tens of thousands beyond what we usually get.” Werner says they’ve selected 11,000 poll workers to run the election.
RELATED: Find your county polling locations and sample ballots
“The judges can also hire their own staff,” said Werner. “Sometimes they call us for help. Certain polling locations might need additional language assistance, so we will pull applicants who maybe speak another language or bilingual. And then we also look at potential locations, so we want to place you near where you’re located so you don’t have to drive all the way across the city, and then most of that too is just the availability and the timing in which you sign up.”
Werner says political affiliation is not something the clerk’s office looks at when hiring poll workers.
The clerk’s office has started Zoom call training with all 11,000 poll workers this month.
They are still taking applications for more poll workers right up until Election Day, just in case someone has to back out of their role.
You can find more details on becoming a poll worker here.