In Year of Voting by Mail, a Scramble to Beef Up In-Person Voting, Too

Mr. Gronke recalled a tabletop exercise this summer about possible election disaster scenarios. One official from a tiny jurisdiction asked for advice should one of the four election workers in its single office contract the coronavirus a week before the election, forcing the remaining three into quarantine.

“That just stopped the conversation,” he said.

Some locales are making do with relatively minor adjustments. In Hennepin County, Minn., home to Minneapolis and 800,000 registered voters, officials have closed a few cramped voting sites and consolidated them with precincts where the polling place is more spacious. Recruitment of poll workers has gone well, and a trial run of the new plans during a local primary last month was judged a success, said Ginny Gelms, the Hennepin County elections manager.

“This election will be difficult,” she said, “but we’re feeling pretty good right now.”

Maricopa County, Ariz., one of the nation’s largest voting jurisdictions, which includes Phoenix, has effectively redrawn its election system to address health concerns.

A review after the primary election in March concluded that many of the 500 polling places were too small to safely accommodate voters, Megan Gilbertson, a spokeswoman for the county elections department, said in an interview. So for the November election, polling has been moved to as many as 175 voting centers, in places like shopping malls and convention facilities.

Eighty of the sites will be open for a 27-day early voting period that will feature expanded evening and weekend hours. Both then and on November 3, voters will be able to cast a ballot at any of the sites.

The consolidation carries an extra benefit: It allowed the county to slash its 3,600-person corps of poll workers in half — to 1,800 — even while expanding the number of check-in stations at each polling place.

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