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A post-election survey of the county’s election officers found a doubling of mask usage by elections personnel in November compared to a special election in July, and a general satisfaction that everything possible was being done to keep staff safe.

According to the survey, conducted by the county government’s election office, 84 percent of election officers responding said all officers at their precincts wore masks all day during the Nov. 3 general election, compared to 42 percent in July.

Mask-wearing had been a major point of emphasis during pre-Election Day training for the 782 election officers (and 70 high-school volunteers) who worked Arlington’s precincts during the election.

While masks were required of staff, voters were not mandated to wear them while in line or casting ballots – although they were strongly encouraged to do so, and were offered alternative voting methods (like having a ballot taken to their car) if they chose not to.

The health focus appears to have paid off; county election officials said there were no confirmed cases of COVID transmission based on Election Day activities at polling places.

The survey of election officers also found:

• 91 percent of workers reported feeling “as safe as could be expected” given the health conditions prevalent on Election Day.

• 98 percent of respondents reported their training as “excellent” or “good,” but many noted a preference for it returning to in-person as soon as practical.

• 78 percent of respondents gave the chief election officer in their precinct an “Excellent” rating.

One might have thought that the COVID pandemic would have scared off prospective election officers, who work all day at precincts and are paid a modest stipend. But the county elections office received a record 2,500 applications, so many that some applicants had to be turned away.

More than 470 of those who worked at the polls were first-time officers, and the median age dropped from 57 in 2018 to 44 in 2020. Three-quarters of those who performed the task said they would be likely to return.

The work of the election officers – and the full-time, part-time and seasonal employees of the elections office – won praise from the Arlington Electoral Board.

“Things are so smooth that people didn’t know how much hard work goes into it,” said the board’s vice chairman, Matt Weinstein.

Electoral Board Chairman Charlene Bickford gave special praise to the permanent elections-office staff, noting that the office stayed open to the public when most of the county government had shut down in-person operations.

“They got us through,” said Bickford, noting that the only person besides elections-office staff she regularly saw in the Ellen Bozman Governmental Center throughout the early months of the pandemic was County Manager Mark Schwartz.

“The public was very well-served,” Bickford said of the elections-office staff.

[Sun Gazette Newspapers provides content to, but otherwise is unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

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