By Briana Thomas
Special to the AFRO
On March 27, the D.C. Board of Elections launched a campaign to encourage residents to utilize voter mail-in ballots for the upcoming elections in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Vote Safe DC initiative is being implemented to help protect the health of election workers and District voters in an effort to assist in preventing the spread of the pandemic.
As of April 7, 22 D.C. residents have died as a result of the coronavirus, according to data from D.C. government.
Council member Charles Allen, chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, said in a news release that voting by mail is a smart step to uphold the right to vote.
The D.C. Board of Elections launched the Vote Safe DC initiative to encourage residents to utilize voter mail-in ballots. (Courtesy Image/Logo)
“District voters can already vote by mail thanks to our low-barrier, ‘no excuse’ absentee ballot process. We’re taking a huge step forward to get a ballot into the mailbox of every District voter who asks for one, while still maintaining some in-person Vote Centers. These are smart steps to protect the fundamental right to vote, while adapting to unprecedented health and safety concerns,” Allen said.
The primary elections will take place on June 2 and the Ward 2 special elections are scheduled for June 16.
According to the news release, District voters can request a mail-in ballot by visiting the Board of Elections website, https://www.dcboe.org, or by the Vote4DC mobile application anytime before the election dates. The ballots will be delivered by mail to the requester and then returned by mail with a prepaid envelope or can be dropped off at a voting center.
Spokesperson for Allen’s office, Erik Salmi, told the AFRO April 7 that the Board is extending a massive outreach effort to inform residents about voting from home.
Salmi said the elections team is advising everyone that this is the safest way to vote, and have hired a public relations firm to educate voters in the matter.
There have been a large number of poll workers resigning from their traditional duties due to health concerns. Also, the recent city closures have interrupted poll worker training. Due to the reduction in staffers and a need to reduce in-person communications, the Board has limited the number of in-person vote centers for the upcoming elections, according to the news release.
“There are still going to be in-person voting centers. They are dramatically scaled back from what we normally do,” Salmi explained.
Residents can expect 20 in-person vote centers to be accessible for the primary elections and just two for the Ward 2 special elections. Normally there are 144 election-day polling places.
The Board said they are allowing D.C. voters to cast their ballots at any open polling station regardless of their respective Ward.
The polling places will be open from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm from May 22 through June 2 for the primary election, and from June 12 through June 16 for the Ward 2 special election, according the news release.