Reader Questions: Voting lines and voting with Covid

Voters line up for early voting at the MLK Jr. Center in Lafayette Photo by Travis Gauthier

Voting used to seem automatic. 2020 made it more complicated than ever. On the upside, voters are asking questions that are only relevant in a high-turnout election. Not all democratic disruptions are natural disasters or partisan suppression. Sometimes its democracy itself.

Can you vote if you have Covid? And if the polls close while you're in line, will you still get to vote?

Got election questions? Visit our dropbox here or email [email protected].

Q: Any suggestions on how Covid infectees can vote Tuesday? — Matt McConnell

A: Louisiana made limited efforts to accommodate the virus — longer early voting and allowing a Covid excuse on voting by mail. But early voting ended last week, and Oct. 30 was the last day to request an absentee ballot. If you tested positive after that and haven’t voted yet, well, there aren’t any other Covid-safe options left.

Election officials will not be screening for the virus, nor will they turn anyone away from voting. “Be a good neighbor,” says Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret, encouraging voters to observe CDC guidelines and self-isolate. Hey, it’s never a bad idea to wear a mask. And you should do that anyway if you’re going to be in a crowd around a polling place. (Just don’t put any political messaging on it. That’s electioneering, and it’s against the law near a voting location.)

The bottom line: This election will likely have a huge turnout. There are going to be lines. And if you have Covid, you shouldn’t be standing in them.

Q: If there is still a line at a polling place after 8 p.m. is the polling place required to let everyone in the line by that time vote? David Whiting

A: Yes. But the key phrase here is “in line by that time.” You can’t Netflix until 8:30 and try to elbow into the line. Poll workers will lockdown the line at 8 p.m. But everyone in line at that point will get a chance to vote. People were casting votes as late as 10:30 during early voting in Lafayette Parish — another reason to expect returns to be delayed on Tuesday night.