Column | On voting: Wear a mask for civic task

In-person early voting in Monroe County starts at 8 a.m. Tuesday at Election Central in downtown Bloomington.

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“When you do a civic task, like vote in person, wear a mask.”

The week of early in-person voting, leading up to election day on June 2, will take place in the middle of a declared health emergency. It was enacted to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Here’s a word of encouragement to those who want to perform their civic duty of voting in person: Please wear a face covering.

Put on a mask.

As of Sunday, Monroe County has seen 160 confirmed cases and 10 deaths due to COVID-19. Statewide, about 32,000 cases are confirmed and 1,800 people have died from the disease.Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s current executive order mentions wearing a face covering in 10 different situations, including a general one: “[W]hen outside of homes or residences, individuals are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings.”

Monroe County health officer Thomas Sharp’s current order also encourages wearing face coverings. “Monroe County is strongly recommending the use of facial coverings when in public and unable to socially distance as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.”

Community-wide mask wearing is being promoted by Monroe County with a new webpage and a social media hashtag promotion called #WearItBtown.

It’s no accident that state and local leaders are encouraging the use of face coverings. The Centers for Disease Control recommends it, too.

According to Monroe County election supervisor Karen Wheeler, masks won’t be provided to voters who don’t have one. [Updated at 6:47 p.m. May 31: One-thousand surgical masks, for use by voters, have been delivered to Election Central by the county’s department of emergency management, it was announced at a Friday, May 29 press conference.] The masks that the state provided to the county election staff are for poll workers, not voters.

But resources for getting yourself a mask aren’t so hard to find:

Around 23,000 Monroe County voters made mask wearing at the polls a moot point, by taking advantage of no-excuse absentee voting. Voting by mail for any registered voter was authorized by the state’s Election Commission just for this year’s primary.

The chance to order an absentee ballot has already passed, but some people will still be receiving theirs in the mail later this week. If you’re worried about your ballot arriving at the clerk’s office by noon on election day, you don’t have to risk it—you can just drop off your absentee ballot in its mailing envelope at Election Central.

Wheeler told The Square Beacon that in-person voters will not be required to wear a mask. Still. Please wear a mask anyway—even if you don’t believe the slogan “it protects you and it protects them.”

Wearing a mask surely says to poll workers: “I respect you!” Poll workers this year deserve our respect more than ever.

Please wear a mask when you vote!