Voters wait in line for early voting in the Brown Lupton University Union in 2016. (Brandon Kitchin/Staff Reporter)
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COVID-19 is changing the layout of polling places as elections officials figure out how to keep machines safely apart without reducing their overall numbers.

The pandemic has mostly changed how workers are trained and has not affected the voting process.

Masks won’t be required for the public, but voters will be asked to stay six feet apart, said Heider Garcia, the Tarrant County elections administrator.

“We cannot mandate voters to wear a mask, but we are highly recommending it,” Garcia said.

Poll workers will be given masks and face shields.

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Garcia said there will be “markings on the floor at the polling places so they stay six feet away from each other just like at any grocery store or shopping you did in person.”

Heider Garcia is the Tarrant County Elections administrator. (Photo courtesy of Tarrant County)

He added that machines won’t necessarily be spaced six feet apart, because in some cases that could mean reducing the number of voting stations.

“If we social distance our equipment, every machine six feet apart of each other, we would have to cut down the amount of machines we have for the election,” Garcia said. “We are separating the machines as much as we can, but we are not sacrificing the number of machines available.”

Garcia said reducing machine numbers could lead to longer lines with voters standing in line for an hour, rather than 15-20 minutes.

There are two ways to vote in-person. Ballots can be cast Election Day, Nov. 3, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the 332 polling places open in Tarrant County. Early voting runs from Oct. 13-30. 

Tarrant County is also welcoming any volunteers who wish to help with the polling centers on Election Day.

“We’ll take all the help we can get,” Garcia said.

The Tarrant County Elections office can be contacted at 817-831-8683 or on Twitter at @tarrantelection.