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Poll workers not showing up in Palm Beach County

COVID-19 is disrupting elemental act of American democracy — voting.

The Palm Beach County department said many workers failed to show up in at least five locations for Tuesday’s Florida presidential primary and local elections, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Office had 800 volunteers back out as of Monday, with just 100 new volunteers offering to take their place, the AP reported.

No other major problems were reported in Florida.

The problem was a reminder that the most elemental act of American democracy — voting — will be severely tested Tuesday as Florida, Illinois and Arizona states hold presidential primaries while also confronting the impact of a global pandemic of the new coronavirus, and Ohio postpones its Election Day voting until June The contests are playing out as the virus’ impact is becoming more tangible with schools closing across the country, workers staying home and restaurants and bars shuttering.

A coalition of voting-rights advocacy groups filed a lawsuit seeking to extend mail voting in the state’s primary by 10 days.

Elsewhere Tuesday, leaders in Ohio called off their primary just hours before polls were set to open, citing the need to combat the coronavirus. Voting moved forward in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, but challenges emerged as some poll workers didn’t show up and those who did tried to create distance among voters to comply with new health guidelines limiting large gatherings.

In Illinois, there was a scramble to relocate about 50 Chicago-area polling places after locations canceled at the last minute and said they would not be available for use on Tuesday. Timna Axel, director of communications for the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, said voters have been calling the group’s hotline all morning to get help finding their polling places.

The steady flow of calls — including from some polling place workers — is “unusual for a primary,” Axel said.

Meanwhile, Cook County, Illinois Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough encouraged poll workers to mark space on the floor at polling sites to keep voters a safe distance apart and avoid spreading the virus. She tweeted a photo of a roll of blue tape, a piece of string and a tape measure along with a note that read: “THIS PICTURE CAN SAVE LIVES.”

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