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Marion’s Wesley Wilcox: Election during pandemic an unprecedented experience

In an interview today, Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox talked about the unusual challenges Florida elections officials face in this time of COVID-19.

Wilcox has worked in elections for 30 years, he says, but he’s never seen anything like this — even in Florida, where they can get pretty strange.

WMFV: Could you tell me a little bit about the challenges that you’re dealing with, an election day in the midst of a health crisis involving a very contagious virus?

WILCOX: It has definitely been an experience. A lot of things that we’re dealing with today and yesterday are unprecedented. Up until this point in time, I’ve never had a polling place pull out on me within 24 hours of an election. And I had six of them yesterday, out of 117. So luckily it’s a small percentage, but still those six locations probably service 10 to 12 thousand voters.

WMFV: Talk a little bit about the precautions that you’re taking at the polling places to protect people against this virus.

WILCOX: And it’s protecting voters, but it’s also protecting my election workers, as well. You know, I’ve got 800 people — well I started yesterday with 800 people — that were going to work for me on election day. I’m concerned with their safety, as well.

So we’re making sure that everybody is trying to keep a distance between everybody, not only themselves as workers but themselves and voters. We’re reminding them. Luckily for us, at this point in time, I don’t have lines at polling places. So people can walk in and walk out and probably not have to wait in any sort of line at all.

And then, checking in to my stations, we can keep a good four, five, maybe even six feet in between my workers and the voters, as well as when they go to the booths. We can spread those out as well, and we’ve reminded everyone to spread out.

WMFV: When I spoke with a voter recently coming out of a polling place, she was talking about the experience of going there. She said it was good, there was hand sanitizer and wipes and people were keeping a distance. There wasn’t a crowd. Have you been able to supply the polling places with those types of things?

WILCOX: Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stock all of our polling places. We asked our workers if they had a bottle hand sanitizer or wipes, please bring it. Because, if you recognize, when I purchase something, I just can’t go to some local vendor and pick up a box of three or four of these things. When I purchase something, it’s in the thousands of numbers. And so when I purchase boxes of sani wipes, I need like 500 of these things, and nobody from a bulk standpoint has that ability to fulfill that order.

I made the order last week into the emergency management system, and we got word yesterday that there was a small delivery in Orlando. But it wasn’t even enough to cover my locations and I had to send somebody to Orlando to get it and put them in harm’s way, I guess, going out there. And unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be.

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