The second week of early voting is underway across Texas.
Counties large and small are navigating through election season with strict COVID guidelines that has caused some long wait times.
Bell County officials are working to navigate through an election season like no other.
This election cycle will definitely be one for the books between the record number of people turning out already to vote, to the adjustments made for COVID-19.
The cleaning of each machine after every voter and accommodations for social distancing have posed a bit of a challenge at the booth.
“It’s just that we do have more of them, but we have kind of reached the max limit for the six sites we are at on how many we can put out safely. Typically, most of our sites run anywhere between 12 to 15 polling booths during early voting, but when we have to distance that’s when those numbers can cut a little bit,” said Matthew Dutton.
All 6 voting sites across Bell County have fewer voting booths than they normally would, but Matthew Dutton, Interim Elections Admin, says that was by design.
“You know the first day we had a little bit less than we do now just because we weren’t sure how the flow was going to be with the voters in the room. We needed to get feedback from the workers who work the site saying this will work, this won’t work or what can we do to kind of address," he said.
“Elections, every election, is always chaos,” said Georgia Centers.
With input from Election Judges like Georgia Centers, Dutton and his team have been working to find some wiggle room to safely add additional voting booths to polling locations. Now, in the second week of early voting, Centers says some of the kinks have been worked.
“Then it smooths out and everything so far I know this week's been working really good...smooth...we’re running them through there. It’s work. I don’t think people realize how much work it is,” she said.
Sanitization and social distancing is now an additional duty for Election Judges like Centers. It's a duty early voters like Marta Ramos, who waited 1 hour to vote, does not mind.
"All precautions have been taking they have ladies wiping the machines they are abiding by social distancing everybody’s wearing a mask I’m telling you I’m more than pleased with the system that they have in place it was easy just to vote," Ramos said.
Dutton recognizes everyone isn't as happy with the current wait times and fewer voting machines.
“It’s a learning curve you know we just have to learn and overcome when it comes to the situation with COVID and will keep doing the best we can,” said Dutton.
Right now, there are about 400 express voting machines throughout Bell County, but Dutton says the rest of those machines have been assigned to the 42 election day voting locations and are being set up as we speak throughout our area.
There are also IT experts who circulate through to each voting location through the county to address any issues with the voting booths.