Coronavirus to change look, feel at polls

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Safety measures planned as registrars prepare for in-person voting at primaries

Voting will look and feel different at the polls next week when registered Democrats and Republicans cast their ballots in the presidential primary amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The typical polling places in Beacon Falls, Naugatuck and Prospect will all be open the normal time, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., for the Aug. 11 primary.

There’s no hot-ticket contests driving Connecticut residents to the presidential primaries this year. The nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties — President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden — are fairly well assured by this point. But, Democrats in the 17th Senate District, which includes a part of Naugatuck and all of Beacon Falls, will have a choice to make between Jorge Cabrera and Justin Farmer to challenge state Sen. George Logan, R-Ansonia, in November.

Officials from Naugatuck, Beacon Falls and Prospect are putting health measures in place to prepare the polls for voting.

Poll workers and voters will be required to wear masks. Voters can expect to see directional and social distancing signs, and plenty of hand sanitizer. Plexiglass barriers will also be set up between workers and voters.

Curbside voting will be available, as well

“We’re doing everything we can to make in-person voting as safe as possible,” Naugatuck Republican Registrar of Voters Matt Katra said.

People’s temperatures will not be taken, he said.

“How you see the grocery stores, we’re kind of doing the same thing for voting,” Katra said.

Markers typically shared by voters to fill out their ballots will be replaced with disposable golf pencils. Officials said the polls and equipment will also be cleaned frequently.

“Things will be disinfected every hour,” Beacon Falls Democratic Registrar of Voters Katherine Grace said. “Privacy booths will be disinfected after every person.”

Officials are asking voters not to bring their children when they vote to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, but won’t refuse parents if they do so.

“We do not want people to bring their children to the polls,” Grace said. “We would like to have people come in just for themselves.”

COVID-19 concerns led to a spike in absentee ballot applications after Secretary of the State Denise Merrill mailed applications for the primaries to 1.2 million registered Republicans and Democrats, with prepaid return postage.

People who received absentee ballot applications can still vote in person, as long as they don’t submit absentee ballots.

“The polls are open and we would love to see them,” Prospect Democratic Registrar of Voters Kate Blinstrubas said. “Some people were under the impression that since they received absentee ballot applications, they can’t vote in person.”

Blinstrubas said voters might wait a little longer than normal if it’s busy due to the cleaning that will be done. She asked voters to be patient and respectful to the poll workers.

“If it’s busy, you might expect to wait a little more because it takes some time to clean,” Blinstrubas said.

The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 11 for the presidential primaries.

Beacon Falls

Laurel Ledge School, 30 Highland Ave.

Naugatuck

Cross Street School, 120 Cross St.

Andrew Avenue School, 164 Andrew Ave.

Central Avenue School, 28 Central Ave.

Maple Hill School, 641 Maple Hill Road

Oak Terrace, 53 Conrad St.

City Hill Middle School, 441 City Hill St.

Western Elementary School, 108 Pine St.

Prospect

Volunteer Fire Department of Prospect, 26 New Haven Road

Community School, 12 Center St.