As voting gets underway, Riley County institutes in-person election precautions

Polling locations, like all public spaces in Riley County, will require masks this Election Day and will implement other precautions. (Archive photo by Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

With election season approaching, the Riley County Health Department and County Clerk’s office are working to ensure the safety of residents planning to vote in-person on Nov. 3.

“We just ask people to comply with the regulations we have set up, not only for themselves, but for others as well,” Riley County Clerk Rich Vargo said. “If someone forgets a mask, we do have some there for them.”

Vargo, who has served as Riley County Clerk for the last 24 years, said he wants to ensure the health and safety of all those voting in person in the upcoming election.

“It’s not a requirement where we can deny them the right to vote,” Vargo said. “If people show up not wearing masks, we can’t turn people away, we just ask that people comply.”

Local health officer Julie Gibbs echoed Vargo’s request.

“Treat this the same as when you go anywhere in the community,” Gibbs said. “I would remind people to wear a mask and wash their hands right after.”

Gibbs said the expectations for in-person voting are no different than that of any other public outing during the pandemic.

“Treat this like any other event,” she said. “Masking, social distancing and stay home if you’re sick.”

Vargo said the county has already begun sending out mail-in ballots for voters to send in to lower their risk of contracting COVID-19 at the polls.

“If they did not receive a [mail-in] ballot, and they need to go to the polls, wear your masks, use the hand sanitation stations and utilize social distancing,” Vargo said.

Cameron Minihan, sophomore in kinesiology, said as a first-time voter, he’s concerned not knowing how the in-person voting process normally looks.

“I’m nervous just doing it for the first time, just not knowing what to do and just trying to figure it out, I guess,” Minihan said. “I’ve voted in the primaries, but not in the main election.”

Vargo said first-time voters like Minihan don’t have as much to worry about as they might think.

“The biggest thing for first-time voters is not to be intimidated by the process,” Vargo said. “Everyone will have to have a photo ID, everyone should be educated enough to know we require masks and it’s a very simple process that will probably take less than five minutes.”

For questions regarding the voting process, COVID-19 precautions or any other issues that arise, Vargo said voters can contact the County Clerk’s Office or the Riley County Health Department.