Bowser wants all DC precincts open on Election Day amid safety, staffing concerns

Election officials wear masks and sit behind plastic barriers as they check in voters at McKinley Technology High School on primary election day on June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Despite a campaign to urge residents to vote early or at voting supercenters, D.C.’s mayor said each of the city’s 144 precincts should be open for in-person voting. The D.C. Board of Elections has indicated that’ll be tough.

Mayor Muriel Bowser does not want a repeat of the June primary, where some voters were met with hourslong lines at the polls.

Leading up to the November election, Bowser said she’s concerned that despite an urging for residents to vote early or by mail, they could turn out in droves at limited polling centers.

“We have to be prepared if they say, ‘No thank you, I don’t want option A or B, I want to vote in person.’ Waiting for three hours is no way to conduct an election in the nation’s capital,” Bowser said in a press conference Wednesday.

Bowser and D.C. Council members have met multiple times with the independent Board of Elections, the mayor said, and her administration has agreed to help prepare for the election by distributing over 50 voter drop boxes and identifying city employees who would be available as elections staff.

“We do have a sticking point with the Board of Elections that we will continue to push them on, and that is making more precincts available,” Bowser said.

She wants all 144 voting centers open as they would be in a normal election year.

Getting those precincts online will be daunting, given staffing and safety restrictions, a source at the Board of Elections told WTOP. The board is working with the mayor’s office to see how they can accomplish what the mayor wants, but said it’s likely they’ll come to a compromise.

Meanwhile, the board is rolling out the Vote Safe DC campaign, which will publicize the voting supercenters around the city, including the Capital One Arena and Nationals Park, which they say will be safe locations to vote that can handle an influx of people and provide the space so voters can follow physical distancing rules.

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