On Monday, June 15, Governor Mills’ office released guidelines for town meetings and elections for Phase 2 of the reopening process. Basic measures such as face coverings, special focus on hygiene, and sanitizing common touch surfaces apply to all venues that are reopening after the COVID-19 closure. Additionally, to facilitate town meetings and the upcoming state elections, Governor Mills has signed an executive order.
Executive Order 56 clarifies that the gathering limit of a maximum of 50 individuals will be in effect even while organizing town meetings, budget hearings, or other public hearings. This action intends to preserve the right of Maine residents to engage in debate and discussions about policies that affect them simultaneously with checking the spread of the contagious coronavirus.
At these meetings, microphones will not be shared and neither will the seats for those who attend. These are just a couple of the many general measures recommended by the Maine CDC.
The press release from the governor’s office proposes alternative meeting methods for cases where the number of attendees exceeds 50 people. The release suggests that a drive-in meeting could replace an indoor or outdoor meeting if more people arrive than permitted for a traditional meeting. Even for meetings with up to 50 individuals, seats are required to be placed six feet apart with instructions to utilize floor markings or boxes to indicate a safe placement of attendees.
Owing to COVID-19, Maine’s primary election has already been moved from June 9 to July 14. As the election date approaches, the governor’s office and the CDC have rolled out guidelines congruent with public health advisories. In order for these guidelines to be properly implemented, the Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions has requested voters to plan for a longer stay at the polling center.
All poll workers will be required to wear face coverings during their time at the polling center. Voters are not required to wear such protective equipment but doing so is highly recommended by the state government.
At the polling centers, voters and workers will be provided with protective shields and covers, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes among many other items to ensure surfaces remain virus-free. Physical measures such as boxes to mark 6-feet distances that apply to town hall meeting locations will also apply to polling booths so that social distancing can be maintained.
Since voting at the poll centers will mean a number of people within close proximity of each other, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is urging people to utilize absentee ballots and vote from home. For those voters who decide to vote in person, poll workers need to ensure that proper precautions are taken.
In addition to the limit of 50 people in a polling station at a time are requirements for managing queues. Even while standing in a queue to vote, people are expected to stay on floor-markers six feet apart from each other.
It is essential for decision-making to remain completely democratic, even during a global pandemic.
Even though it would have been ideal to allow as many people as possible at polling booths and town hall meetings, public health requirements have forced the government to try to strike a balance between checking a contagion and encouraging democratic participation.