How to run an election in a pandemic

Sarah Eppnick, a 39-year-old who lives in the Cleveland suburbs, is one of the many poll workers across the country who have canceled their scheduled shifts ahead of Tuesday. “I feel terrible,” she told me. “But I just don’t feel that sitting there for two hours with a constant flow of traffic coming in is really in the best interest of my health and for my loved ones.” On the other hand, 68-year-old Gail Hamer just signed up to volunteer, despite acknowledging that her age and preexisting respiratory problems make her particularly vulnerable to the virus. “I’m concerned; I’m aware,” she said, but “I’m willing to take the risk.”

Election officials have been asking young, healthy people to volunteer or work at polling sites—especially students whose classes might have been canceled in light of the coronavirus outbreak. It’s often a paid position, and many officials are relaxing training requirements out of sheer necessity, Mirkovic said. Wahinya Njau, a 22-year-old student at Ohio State University, is planning to volunteer at a polling site in Columbus now that his schedule is freed up. “I thought, I’m literally not doing anything Tuesday,” Njau told me with a laugh. “Why not?”

These problems will likely only get worse as the primary season wears on. “We’re going to see a lot more disease over the next few weeks,” Watson said.