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County clerk calls for precaution as COVID-19 outbreaks could hinder elections

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COVID-19 is still having an impact on local elections. Marion County, Missouri, clerk's office workers said they don't want a repeat of the primary when multiple election workers became sick with COVID-19.

They said the concern is if that happens at the clerk's office, it could make running the election hard.

At the Marion County Courthouse where absentee voting is being conducted, Marion County clerk Valarie Dornberger said requiring a mask for entry is one way they're trying to keep clerk's office workers safe so the election can go as planned.

"As I'm older now and you know you have more health concerns as you get older, and you have people who seem to not be as careful," said Marion County Deputy Clerk Sheila Phillips.

She said that's part of why she's being careful. She is taking on more COVID-19 related responsibilities like disinfecting surfaces and pens at the Marion County Courthouse.

If someone like her or Dornberger get very sick, Dornberger said they won't be able to run the election on November 3.

"If we were all to come down with it at the same time and we were forced to be quarantined I'm not sure how we would do it. Maybe lock ourselves in the office and not meet anybody from the public and just do everything by phone," said Dornberger trying to imagine a way to address the issue.

While it remains to be seen if Dornberger can avoid that, she said she does have a contingency plan for election day.

"I'm going to force my judges to wear a mask because that will be a condition of their employment on election day. And I fear we may lose some judges that say 'I just can't wear one all day,' and I understand that, we do have backup judges we'll be calling if that happens," said Dornberger.

Phillips said she has noticed for most, social distancing and mask-wearing hasn't been an issue for absentee voters.

"I have had a lot of people tell us they appreciate that, that we're taking those extra steps for their safety," said Phillips.

Dornberger said while they can't force the public to wear masks on election day, she does want to ask the public to wear a mask if possible to keep your neighbors, and the poll workers, safe.

Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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