MIAMI - Police responded to an early voting site in Fort Lauderdale on Monday after a poll worker told four voters they couldn't vote without masks. But after police consulted with Broward County Elections Supervisor Peter Antonacci, the voters were allowed back into the polling place to cast their ballots, still without masks on.
At around 12:45 p.m. at Coral Ridge Mall, police were called after a dispute between a poll worker and the group of maskless voters - one man and three women - according to a police report. Initially, police escorted them outside, where the voters claimed they had medical conditions that prevented them from wearing masks and "insisted they were allowed to vote."
According to the police report, a legal advisor for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department spoke with Antonacci, who told the advisor that "masks were NOT required."
The four voters were then led back inside the mall to vote, police said. An officer told a poll supervisor at the site that, "as long as persons without masks are not themselves causing a disturbance, it is not a police matter."
Meanwhile, according to the report, the poll worker involved in the initial encounter "kept attempting to contact his supervisor for clarification," but was unable to reach that person before police left.
The incident reflects the discretion that Antonacci has given local police to decide how to handle voters who flout Broward County's COVID-19 mask mandate. Last week, Antonacci authorized law enforcement to remove anyone from the polls deemed "disruptive and unruly," including for mask violations.
After the incident Monday, a spokesman for Antonacci, Steve Vancore, said police "responded quickly and dealt with the problem."
"They used their discretion on enforcing the county ordinance," he said.
The incident was first reported by WPLG.
Antonacci had faced pushback, including from Broward County commissioners, for saying he wouldn't turn away voters who weren't wearing masks. Last Thursday, he signed a "trespass affidavit" allowing law enforcement agencies countywide "to enforce local ordinances as they see fit," according to Vancore.
It wasn't clear until Monday how that directive would play out in practice.
In Miami-Dade County, masks are required to enter voting precincts, but Miami-Dade officials have said they will give voters a mask if they don't have one, or else let them fill out their ballots outside.
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