It’s our most important right and responsibility as American citizens, but understandably, a lot of voters are wondering just how safe it will be to cast their vote in person this year.

What You Need To Know

  • Spectrum Bay News 9 spoke with the supervisors of elections for Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Manatee, Hernando and Citrus counties.

  • They say health and safety is their top priority.

  • Free masks will be available at polling places, and numerous other precautions will be in place.

  • Complete 2020 election coverage and helpful resources can be found here.

Crowds may be smaller

Supervisors of elections from across Tampa bay told Spectrum Bay News 9 they’re seeing a significant increase in requests for mail-in ballots this election cycle.

It has long been an option for all Floridians – whether they’re away from home or not – but more people are choosing to vote by mail so they don’t have to wait in line during the ongoing pandemic.

You can find everything you need to know about voting by mail right here.

Masks are strongly recommended

The experts say covering your face is key to containing the spread of COVID-19, so the supervisors of elections are stocking up.

Poll workers at every precinct across Tampa Bay will be wearing masks and handing them out for free to anyone who needs one, but voters are being encouraged to bring their own.

Of course, there may be some people who don’t want to wear a mask. Election officials agree the constitutional right to vote supersedes the mask orders being enforced in multiple counties, so no voters will be turned away from the polls for refusing to cover their faces.

Everything will be sanitized between voters

That means the pen you use to sign in, the voting booth – and even the privacy sleeve for your ballot – will be wiped down before and after you use it.

Some counties are even taking this a step further.

Poll workers in Hillsborough and Pasco will hand each voter a one-time-use stylus to sign in on a tablet.

Voters in Polk and Hernando counties are being urged to bring their own pen, but Polk will give out a disposable pen to any voter who needs one.

Social distancing could mean longer lines

The supervisors of elections say signs on the floor will remind voters to stay six feet apart, so be prepared to spend some more time in the summer sun.

All that extra distance will limit the number of voters allowed inside each precinct at one time.

Reducing points of contact

Each county is taking a different approach, but the overall goal is the same – keep the number of face-to-face interactions at a minimum.

Plexiglass shields will separate voters and poll workers in Hillsborough and Citrus counties, and Citrus’ poll workers will use clothes pins to handle voters’ IDs.

Pasco County poll workers will use hands-free barcode readers instead.

Expect to see lots of hand sanitizer

Every supervisor of elections in the bay area told Spectrum Bay News 9 they will have hand sanitizer available in multiple locations at each precinct.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to have your own.

And a tip for helping to speed the process along

Be prepared. Election officials say voters should study their sample ballot so they don’t have to spend a lot of time in the booth.

Also, be sure to check that your address is up to date and make sure you go to your assigned polling place.

You can find all that information on Florida’s election website.