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Masks A Sign Of Politics At Oklahoma Precincts Tuesday

Many poll workers and voters took precautions against COVID-19 during Tuesday’s elections, but some voters said the politicization surrounding the mask issue was obvious.

Poll worker and Chair of the Oklahoma County Democratic Party Robbie White said her polling location in northwest Oklahoma City had a steady amount of voters come in throughout the day, with about 90 percent wearing masks. 

“People are excited to vote, but everyone has that sort of pause when they walk up to interact with us at the table,” White said. “They’re like “Okay, what do I do with my thing? How do I proceed with handing my ID to the judge?”... So there’s been a little bit of awkwardness, but it’s been very cheerful and upbeat all day.” 

While masks weren’t required to cast a ballot in person, the state distributed disinfectants, and many precincts implemented social distancing and disinfection protocols such as instructing people to stand six feet apart in line and disinfecting pens between voters. White said the Oklahoma County Election Board provided her voting site with an adequate amount of personal protective equipment. 

In Kingfisher, Mike Brown said he didn’t see many other people wearing masks as they came to vote, but people in line were respecting social distancing protocols. He also noticed that the process took longer than usual because of safety measures surrounding the coronavirus.

Michelle Wagner also voted in Kingfisher and said the political division around the practice of wearing a mask was obvious.

“You know they ask you ‘Republican or Democrat?’ when you get to the table. I could sort of tell what they were going to say by whether or not they put on a mask,” Wagner said.

Even with most polling locations implementing safety protocols… some voters took further precautions such as Isaiah Flowers, who wore a mask, brought his own pen and voted at a time that is typically less busy at his polling location in Norman. 

Flowers says it’s important for him to vote in person because he’s skeptical about absentee voting. 

“I don’t know if I necessarily trust the whole sending my vote through the mail thing. I feel better about my vote going in and doing it myself in person,” Flowers said.

Seth Bodine was KOSU's agriculture and rural issues reporter from June 2020 to February 2022.
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