America's fight over masks has reached a new front: polling places.

On Election Day, voters across the country will face varying rules about mask-wearing when they cast a ballot as officials try to balance public safety precautions amid a global pandemic with the constitutional right to vote.

Most states, even ones with broad mask mandates, are stopping short of forcing voters to use a face covering. Instead, they're opting for recommendations to wear them while providing options for voters who refuse.

“We are asking everyone at the polls to observe social distancing inside and outside of polling places, and not to create disturbances about wearing or not wearing face coverings,” said Meagan Wolfe, chief elections official in Wisconsin, where a state mask mandate applies to poll workers but not voters.

During the early voting period, disagreements over masks occasionally led to long voting lines and had election officials clearing polling sites for the mask-less or directing them to stations away from other machines.

Still, due to the decentralized nature of the country's voting systems, rules are different depending on where ballots are cast. Some places are taking harder stances than others.

In one case that caught national attention, a Maryland man was arrested after refusing to wear a mask while trying to vote last month. He has since sued his local election board over the incident.

In Texas, the issue has wound up in court.

First, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott carved out an exception for voting locations in his statewide mask mandate issued earlier this year. Then, in response to a challenge from voting rights groups, a federal judge ordered that masks must be worn inside polling sites. That decision was quickly reversed by an appeals court.

Despite the legal back and forth, at least some Texas elections administrators had chosen not to enforce the short-lived polling station mask mandate.

Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said governments should be able to require masks at polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Despite the few attempts to challenge mask requirements in court, there is no question that it is well within the legal authority of states and localities to require masks to be worn at polling places — both as a matter of public health and as a reasonable regulation of the election process,” she said.

With Election Day looming, most places have settled on a strategy of strongly encouraging voters to wear masks. Their message is that abiding by widely accepted health guidelines will protect poll workers and other voters.

In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over the weekend signed an extension of measures designed to limit the spread of the virus, including a mask mandate in the city. But her order specifically says “no individual shall be denied ingress or egress to or from a polling place for failure to wear a facial covering or mask.”

Gabriel Sterling, statewide voting system implementation manager for the secretary of state’s office, said during a news conference Monday that individual poll managers will have to decide how to accommodate people who have tested positive or are in quarantine. He suggested that one way to handle them might be pulling them aside and having them vote a hand-marked paper ballot away from everyone else, rather than having them use one of the touchscreen voting machines.

But he stressed that no additional barriers to voting can be put in place.

“You can’t turn away somebody because they’re not wearing a mask,” Sterling said.

Meanwhile, election officials across the country have scrambled to shore up polling place safety precautions to make it easier to recruit poll workers. Many of them have traditionally been older retirees — the type of people who are at greater risk of getting a severe case of the coronavirus.

The idea of staffing a polling place where voters aren't wearing masks was one reason Richard Baus decided to break over a decade of tradition and not work the election in his hometown of Dublin, Pennsylvania, this year. Even at 90-years-old during a global pandemic, Baus said he was considering returning as a poll worker but ultimately decided against it.

“Being a poll worker, you do come into contact with people, very close contact,” he said. “I would have been more inclined to work if they had a mask mandate.”

Virginia Elections Commissioner Chris Piper said voters who walk into polling places without wearing face coverings will be offered masks by poll workers. If they refuse to wear them, the voters will be asked to return to their cars and vote curbside. If they refuse to do that, they will be allowed to vote inside the polling location.

“Obviously, the goal is to mitigate that, to encourage the health and safety of everybody," Piper said. "But certainly if they refuse, they have to be offered a ballot.”

In Florida's Broward County, where there is a mask ordinance, elections spokesman Steve Vancore said just four out of 364,000 early voters refused to wear masks. They were allowed to cast ballots after they were separated from other voters.

“We tell them ’Sir or ma’am – it is mostly sir – you are not supposed to be in here without a mask. There is a county ordinance,” he said. “They mostly obey.”


Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York. Associated Press writers Kate Brumback and Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta; Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas; Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia; and Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contributed to this report.


Associated Press coverage of voting rights receives support in part from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

(24) comments

Greg F

Spot the trump supporter...mask off the nose, not caring who he infects and too stupid to realize he also breathes out his nose spewing virus.

Why is it acceptable for businesses to have “ No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” rules, but no mask 😷 is acceptable?


How about “no clothes, you’re under arrest”. Women can’t go topless at the beach, they cover up or get a citation and pay a fine. Some restaurants demand a coat and tie to get in. But ask some jerk to wear a mask if they’re in your space they punch you or shoot you. Only in trump’s america.


There is ABSOLUTELY no CORRELATION between the lack of masks, the lack of inteligent life in some parts of the electorate, and political affiliation. Surely there must be a Snopes report to validate this.......................


This makes exit polling much easier. The unmasked will be the dumb Trump supporters, you know, the tough guys and gals.


OMG, what will they think of next; they will take our guns away. [scared][tongue_smile][lol][lol]


Could be DickD:

Unless, of course, Biden has also flip flopped on this issue. It's hard to keep track of his positions on anything since he flip flops so much.



Revising your position after new information is provided is a sign of intelligence.


Good one. May I quote you on that the next time somebody here goes on rant about the federal response to the virus? It's still a fluid situation with new information coming in.

I wish Fauci had changed his no mask and little chance of human-to-human spread position earlier than he did. I wish Pelosi hadn't invited everyone down to Chinatown for a hug and kiss tour.

And yes, hayduke2, still on Pelosi and Fauci since I listened to them and ended up stuck in a third world foreign country in March after tour operators stopped mid-tour, airlines stopped flying, and countries started closing their borders.



When the Pandemic first started, the thought was it was transmitted by contact so gloves and hand sanitizer were the defenses, not masks. When it became apparent that COVID-19 was airborne, which Trump knew in late January as did Fauci, masks became the defense and the Fauci team put that into the CDC Guidelines published by the WH, which Trump then railed against.


Fido, here's one example of what Fauci was saying mid-February. If you had an international trip scheduled to start in early March and were watching what Fauci and Birx were saying (Not Trump), and not using 20/20 hindsight available to you now, would you cancel your travel? Based on the information available in late February, we didn't.

And don't forget what Pelosi was saying at the end of February.

Looks like a good day to rake some leaves. Stay well.



I'm pretty sure we ALL hate masks. No one gets up in the morning and says I can't wait to wear my mask all day. But if we can't wear it for the short time we're standing in line to vote, then that's a problem. I just hope that each polling place has a process in place for handicap individuals who can't stand in long lines.


I'm pretty sure Batman and Jason Vorhees are pretty psych'd to get up and put their masks on.

But to stay on task, we seem to have really dug our heals into our own selfishness and if we are to heal as a country, we really must address and confront that.


Why an article like this now, the last day to vote, when early voting has been going on for what, weeks now?


Because millions will vote today. And we would prefer not be infected by stupid, selfish Trump voters.


Didn't take long for a never-Trumper to show up and sling some poo, did it CD? They never disappoint. [ninja]



You're correct. We never disappoint. While you guys always disappoint. Must be sad to always disappoint.


Bosco: So what's your beef with seven's statement bosco??? He merely stated a fact, something you don't understand seemingly. 99.999% of people who refuse to wear a mask in a crowd are Trump supporters, and 99.999% of them are stupid super spreaders and don't care about their neighbors health and well being. It's time for you to stop accusing others of what you are doing all the time, it does not flatter you..


Source, olefool? 99.99 percent? Really?


Greg F

Or the forever-trumper to start vomiting poo also there B.


bosco, why is it bad to be a never-Trumper but ok to be a never-Bidener?? What is the distinction you make there??? Are always-Trumpers in a special category that exempts them from your disdain? You have so many things that you and CD and the BTT(BullyTagTeam) can do that are off-limits for those of us that do not share your views. ‘splain that to me. You and CD are always saying that because we reject your opinions that we hate you or we hate Trump. Wouldn’t that be true that those of you who reject our opinions hate us and hate Biden but that’s ok?? You don’t seem to condemn the same things of yourself that you condemn us for. There’s a word for that I think. Peace.✌️Have a Happy Election Day!!! Vote for Biden and America, not Trump and Tyranny.


Good question, Fido, and I think it all started with the dirty Russian dossier and spying on the Trump campaign, the pink hat brigade, Madonna announcing she wanted to blow up the White House, Kathy Griffiths holding up a representation of a severed head of Trump, the Muller investigation that found nothing, the Shifty Schiff impeachment show, and all of Pelosi's and Schumer's antics. Add to that the pass that Antifa and Biden Crime Family is getting from the MSM and it's a toxic environment.

I'm reminded of two elementary kids that I observed. One slugged the other and after I separated them I ask the attacker why he had hit the other kid. His defense was "I hit him back first".

Stay well.....[ninja]


Actually, I think olefool might be a little low bosco.😷✌️


Good one Fido. [thumbup][ninja]

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