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Local Election

Face masks encouraged – but not required – at Kane polling places

Election judges cannot ask voters to leave for not wearing face coverings

A line of voters forms outside the Kane County Clerk's office in Geneva during the first day of early voting Sept. 24 for the 2020 general election.
A line of voters forms outside the Kane County Clerk's office in Geneva during the first day of early voting Sept. 24 for the 2020 general election.

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KANE COUNTY – While wearing masks at Kane County polling places is certainly encouraged, election judges cannot ask those who don't wear masks to leave.

Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham said he has set up 20 people to be sanitation monitors, who will go around all day Nov. 3 and make sure everyone is sanitizing and wearing masks and that the sanitizing stations are full for voters to use.

“We can’t force people to wear masks to vote,” Cunningham said. “What we are doing is putting up signs that say, ‘Thank you for wearing masks.’ ”

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health's website, dph.illinois.gov, election authorities cannot prevent a noncompliant voter from casting a ballot for refusal to wear a face covering outside or inside a polling place.

"Election officials should take every reasonable action to separate noncompliant voters from those wearing face coverings," the website states. "These actions may include, but are not limited to, establishing a separate waiting area for non-compliant voters or establishing a separate line or queue. Election officials must provide a means to track the noncompliant voter’s place in the normal queue of voters and call the noncompliant voter from the waiting area when it is their turn to vote."

Cunningham said each polling place will have multiple precincts. He has a full contingent of 1,500 election judges who will be masked, gloved, gowned and wearing visors.

The department suggests placing Plexiglas barriers between election officials and voters and consider using large print instructions on laminated cards to allow voters to maintain distance and to facilitate communication through masks.

Another suggestion is to designate specific polling place personnel to monitor and to remind voters to maintain physical distancing. It does recommend that poll workers wear a face covering at all times in the polling location and to require them to self-screen for possible COVID-19 symptoms prior to performing their official election duties during early voting and on Election Day.

Reporters Eric Schelkopf and Brenda Schory contributed to this report.

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