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First pandemic election set for Saturday

Friday, July 10, 2020

After two postponements, Louisiana will finally hold its presidential preference primary on Saturday, although the outcome isn’t expected to make any difference in the race for the White House.

Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump are already their respective party’s presumptive nominees, based on the outcome of earlier primaries, caucuses and shifts in the candidate field.

Nevertheless, all polling places across Lincoln Parish will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Voters must bring photo ID, such as a valid driver’s license.

Voters are urged to wear masks and encouraged to bring their own hand sanitizer and pen to sign the precinct book, as well as maintain the 6-foot social distance from others, where possible, according to guidelines from Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office.

Ardoin’s office has distributed a five-page set of COVID-19 safety procedures for in-person voting, along with full personal protective equipment for all precinct workers.

Lincoln Parish Clerk of Court Linda Cook, whose office is in charge of election workers, said workers are re quired to wear face masks or face shields, along with gloves.

Polling place commissioners who have direct contact with voters will also wear disposable gowns.

“This is for protection of themselves as well as the voters,” Cook said.

Commissions will also routinely sanitize all surfaces voters may touch, including each voting machine after each use.

Cook said she expects a slow day at the polls.

“The interest is not there,” she said.

Plus the increased number of mail-in ballots for the primary automatically means fewer potential people voting in person.

At the close of the early voting period on July 4, some 1,667 people had voted. Of those, 802 cast their ballots in person, while 866 mailed in absentee ballots, according to figures provided by the Lincoln Parish Registrar of Voters office.

Four years ago, 1,052 people cast early ballots.

Lincoln Parish Registrar of Voters Sharon Parnell attributes the state’s renewed emphasis on the absentee-by-mail ballot for voters age 65 and older to at least part of the increase in this year’s higher early voting turnout.

The state also made special provisions for others impacted by COVID-19 to vote by mail, as well.

The primary was originally scheduled for April 4, then postponed to May 13 because of the pandemic. It was later moved to June 20, and finally to Saturday.

Louisiana’s presidential primary is a closed primary, meaning only registered Republicans can vote for Republicans and only registered Democrats can vote for Democrats.

That always causes confusion, Cook said, because some voters don’t understand why they can’t cross party lines.