Mass. voters refusing to wear masks will be accommodated at the polls

Pollsters entering the polling station. Photo by Allison Miller / BU News Service

By Clarissa Garza
BU News Service

BOSTON — Voters in Massachusetts will not be turned away for refusing to wear masks at polling stations, similar to rulings in other states.

In Houston, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry issued an executive order on Oct. 16, prohibiting poll workers from turning away voters who refuse to wear a mask at the polls.

But in Massachusetts, poll workers have been instructed on how to accommodate for all voters. No one will be turned away from voting sites or denied the right to vote for refusing to wear a face covering.

“While we strongly encourage all voters to wear a mask while voting in person, voters cannot be denied the right to vote if they are unable or unwilling to wear one. Local election officials have been advised to be prepared to provide a reasonable accommodation for such a voter,” said Debra O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State William Galvin.

In Shrewsbury, Town Clerk Sandra Wright said that election officials are taking the necessary precautions to prepare for unmasked voters.

“We do try to make it safe for everyone by the distancing, by other people having masks, and the plexiglass windows,” Wright said. “If other voters mind, you can keep them a little more separated or have them wait until there is no one else in the room. In Massachusetts, they cannot be turned away, with or without a mask. Everyone has the right to vote.”

Wright spoke of one instance where a poll worker encountered an unmasked voter.

“One of the poll workers just said, ‘an individual is here, and they cannot wear a mask for medical reasons. Will they still be allowed to vote?’ and I said ‘yes, let them vote.’ There was social distancing in place, to six feet. The floor was marked all the way into the polling location, markers six feet apart,” Wright said. “The poll workers were protected with masks, sanitizers and plastic shields, so they were allowed.”

In Hudson, Town Clerk Joan Wordell said that she has yet to have an issue, but every warden and clerk has been instructed the procedure for handling an unmasked person.

“Depending on the polling location, they will either clear out the voting place so [those without a mask] can vote and no one else is contaminated. Then, we will clean the polling booth, and allow people back in,” Wordell said. “If the polling location is large enough, they will go off to their section, so they can vote away from the other people safe enough so that they do not contaminate anyone else.”

This article was originally published in MetroWest Daily News.

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