"Because of COVID-19, elections look different," said Megan Gilbertson, a spokesperson with Maricopa County Elections. "When considering an in-person voting option, we have to find a location that is large enough to accommodate for physical distancing. After March, we were re-evaluating what we could do to make sure voters are safe. Once we went through traditional polling locations, we found very few would be large enough. They are often small conference rooms or meeting rooms in senior centers or public buildings. The elections department felt like they needed to be much larger."
The city of Chandler has 10 voting centers that open Oct. 22, according to the election plan approved by the Maricopa County board of supervisors Sept. 16. The town of Gilbert has eight voting centers that open Oct. 22. Any registered voter can go to any of the voting centers to cast their ballot, according to Maricopa County Elections.
The voting centers include churches, malls and large meeting spaces. Gilbertson said all centers are at least 1,500 square feet.
"We were able to move locations into malls and larger convention centers and larger locations so voters could physically distance," Gilberson said. "We were also able to add more check-in stations to get voters through the process more quickly."
Poll workers will wear masks, gloves and face shields, Gilbertson said, and high-tough areas will be continuously wiped down.
"The larger location really allows us to make sure we can get voters in and out as quickly as possible," Gilbertson said. "We will be able to have up to 40 voters voting at once in some locations."
Gilbertson said a majority of voters in the August primary opted to vote early by mail or by dropping off their ballot at any location. At 94%, she said it was the highest percentage of early voting the county has seen. Voters can drop off their ballot beginning Oct. 19 at Chandler City Hall, located at 175 S. Arizona Ave.
"Voters are able to have a safe options whether that be vote by mail or vote in person," Gilbertson said. "But physical distancing really is the most important factor we can implement."