Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link told the Westlake City Council on Monday, Aug. 10 that 140,000 of the 340,000 mail-in ballots for the Tuesday, Aug. 18 primary election had already been processed by her office, although extensive COVID-19 precautions are in place for those who still wish to vote in person.
“Vote by mail has been very busy,” Link said. “We have sent out more than 340,000 ballots already, and we have already received back 140,000. We have the most that we have ever received for an August primary. We are anticipating that we will continue to be very busy.”
Both major political parties pushing mail-in voting has also made a difference, Link said. She added that the free return postage also contributed to the success of voting by mail.
“A lot of people have asked me, ‘With that kind of response, are you able to keep up? Are we going to have delayed election response?’ The answer is no,’” she said. “We have been very aggressive with our opening, tabulation and canvassing schedule, so the canvassing board is meeting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
Canvasing board members must be at the warehouse while mail-in ballots are being opened and tabulated, as well as any members of the public who want to observe.
“We’ve been able to keep up,” she said. “As of now, everything that we received, we have opened. The tabulation is being completed right now, so on the Monday before the election, we will have gone through the processing and tabulation on everything that we have received through Monday night. On Tuesday, the only thing that we will be processing will be the ballots we have received on Tuesday. Of course, that’s going to be a lot. We always have the most on election day, and people can turn them in until 7 p.m.”
The first set of results published by the Supervisor of Elections Office on Tuesday night will include early voting and vote-by-mail results that have been received through Monday night, she said. The official results will be available on the Friday after the election, once the canvasing board certifies them.
“We opened up early voting a week ago,” she said. “All 18 early voting sites are going very well. The feedback we have gotten from voters has been very good. We are keeping them very clean.”
Similar enforcement of CDC guidelines will also be in effect on primary day. Poll workers have their temperature taken with disposable thermometers before they begin work every day. They also fill out a virus questionnaire and will wear facial coverings and gloves. Voters, if they do not bring their own masks, will be provided one, as well as gloves if they prefer.
“We do have hand sanitizer as well as disinfecting wipes to wipe down the polling booths after each voter,” Link said. “We’ve even laminated our secrecy sleeves so they can be wiped down easily before they are reused by anybody. We have plexiglass shields that will be between the voter and the poll worker. Also, when they use the pens to mark their ballots, they just keep the pens. They say, ‘I Voted’ on them.”
Polling places will also be marked off to enforce the CDC distancing requirements. “Voters have been very good about wearing the masks,” Link said, encouraging voters to take advantage of early voting, which will be available through Sunday, Aug. 16 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. People can also turn in their vote-by-mail ballots at the early voting locations.
Information about the 18 early voting sites is available on the Supervisor of Elections web site at www.pbcelections.org.