Expect to see lots of hand sanitizer at next week's village elections.
Villages run their own elections, and several village clerks in Erie County said they had gotten little official guidance on ways to prepare in light of the COVID-19 outbreak until Thursday morning, when the New York Conference of Mayors emailed recommendations and information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Elections for village officials are still on for Wednesday, with voting from noon to 9 p.m. It's a quiet year for village contests, with candidates in three villages running unopposed.
"I scoured the Western world today to get lots of hand sanitizer," Blasdell Village Administrator Janet MacGregor Plarr said, adding that everyone who came into the office Thursday used the jar on the counter.
Blasdell does not usually have a custodian working during the election, but next week there will be a staffer in to continuously clean surfaces, she said. And if any voter does not have his or her own pen, they can take a village pen home.
"We won't be sharing any pens," Plarr said.
East Aurora also will have plenty of hand sanitizer and staff wiping down railings and doorknobs, Clerk/Treasurer Maureen Jerackas said. And if voters bring their own pens, and don't touch the railings or knobs, they can fill out the ballot and vote without touching anything someone else has touched.
Recommendations from the Conference of Mayors include preparing the polling place by cleaning and disinfecting shared surfaces, providing hand sanitizer for use by election inspectors and voters and routinely cleaning frequently touched surfaces. Also, planning for absent election inspectors and having additional inspectors ready to fill in.
There may be increased absentee ballots, the conference said. The deadline for requesting absentee ballots by mail was Tuesday, although voters may go into East Aurora Village Hall by Monday to apply in person, Jerackas said.
"You have to come to Village Hall regardless, but there would be less people here," she said.
The CDC also recommends incorporating social distancing strategies such as increasing the distance between voting booths and reminding voters to leave space between one another.