In a time where buildings functioning as vote centers often post signs forbidding people with a fever, cough or sore throat to enter, a fixture of absentee voting might play a pronounced role.
Traveling boards are one of many ways to vote without physically going to the polls. In the past, traveling boards have been used to ease the voting process for those who are sick, confined or have disabilities or the elderly in nursing homes.
If a voter is approved to vote by a traveling board, a bipartisan team will come to their house, help them to fill out their ballot if they are unable to do so on their own and return it to the election office.
Applications for voting by traveling board can be found at indianavoters.com. The forms ask voters to justify why they qualify to vote by traveling board.
“A real travel board goes to the home and lets somebody vote, and then we take the ballot back with us,” said Julie Roush, the Tippecanoe County clerk.
But this year the traveling boards could be used as a way for individuals with the coronavirus to vote safely, according to Roush.
“We would have on hand what’s called a ballot for travel boards and (COVID-19) might be one of the instances where the board would allow a sick person to fill out a travel board, send a team to that person’s home and we will let them vote,” Roush said.
“(The voters) have the opportunity to call us and say ‘I have gotten sick, I really want a travel board to come to the home.’”
This year the county will use the traveling boards to help the elderly in nursing homes to vote in the election, as they are especially at risk of suffering from the coronavirus. According to Germany Harris, member of the Board of Elections staff, the traveling boards will be sent to nursing homes, as opposed to setting up vote centers at the homes.
“We have travel boards at the nursing homes themselves,” Roush said. “We used to vote in nursing homes, because of COVID we’re not. So we’ve devised this, and we’ve found people both Republicans and Democrats to work together to help the residents of that nursing home.”
But for those that will still vote in person this election, voting centers such as Mackey Arena have implemented numerous safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Those planning to vote at Mackey Arena will be required to queue outside of the building, with building occupancy measured by Purdue Athletics staff and Purdue Votes volunteers, said Melissa Gruver, associate director of civic engagement and leadership development at Purdue. Poll workers will also clean styluses, pens, voting booths, touch screens, tables and any other materials used during the voting process. Hand sanitizer will be placed at the entrances and near the restrooms.
In the case of a poll employee contracting the coronavirus, Roush is confident that there are plenty of backup poll workers. But it would prove difficult if a supervisor got sick.
“The supervisors are the head of everybody,” Roush said.
Employees in election offices have not only been doing their best to keep the public safe when voting, but are also working to prevent an outbreak in the county election offices. The employees have been vigilant in wearing masks and staying 6 feet away from one another, Roush reported. She also emphasized how important it is that workers in the county building stay healthy because “we have to run the election.”
Roush largely recommends voting early, if healthy, due to the unpredictable nature of the coronavirus’s spread.
“Don’t wait until Election Day,” she said, “because by Election Day you could get sick.”