Masks not required to vote on campus despite university requirement

Masks+not+required+to+vote+on+campus+despite+university+requirement

Patrick Murphy

Holmes Student Center on June 3.

Kierra Frazier, News Editor

DeKALB – Despite the campus-wide face mask requirement, those who choose to cast a ballot at the Holmes Student Center for early voting aren’t required to wear a face mask.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced in August that election authorities are prohibited from preventing a noncompliant voter from casting their ballot for refusal to wear a face covering. 

In July, the university announced that when physical distancing can’t be maintained, face masks must be worn when indoors on campus. However, anyone who wants to vote on campus isn’t required to wear a face mask, NIU Spokesperson Joe King said. 

King said if students choose to linger in the Holmes Student Center before or after they vote, they must observe the university’s requirement to wear a mask.

DeKalb County Clerk Doug Johnson said the polling places are provided with PPE and election judges will follow the guidelines put in place by the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

“We have face shields, we have masks, we have masks for the public if they forget to bring their own, we have gloves, hand sanitizer and sanitizer wipes,” Johnson said. “The pens are going to be sanitized after every use too.” 

Election judges can’t enforce face coverings because every citizen has a right to vote, and they can’t be denied that right, Johnson said during a Sept. 9 town hall. He said face coverings are highly encouraged when voters go to the polls. 

Individual county clerks are obligated to comply with the department’s rules as well as produce their own plans to minimize potential COVID-19 cases, according to Illinois law. 

The IDPH also recommends placing Plexiglas barriers between election officials and voters. Johnson said Plexiglas was purchased for early-voting locations but not for Election Day voting locations. 

Election judges also can’t screen voters for COVID-19 by taking their temperature, according to IDPH guidelines. 

Early voting opens at the Holmes Student Center at 8:30 a.m. Monday. On Election Day, students and DeKalb residents can vote at the Barsema Alumni and Vistors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Road.