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Face it: Wear a mask when you vote and let's talk about it. Now

By Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Political News

It's what Broward Supervisor of Elections Pete Antonacci didn't say that stirred up so much dust this week.

In the long run-up to the 2020 election, Antonacci sought to project confidence and a sense of calm, in contrast to the jittery sense of impending doom before past elections. The lawyer from Tallahassee, Florida, hired and trained thousands of poll workers, relocated dozens of polling places and mailed a record number of ballots caused by the COVID-19 disruption. Things still weren't perfect, but they ran more smoothly, and timely results arrived on primary night.

All the while, Antonacci avoided a subject he knew would stir controversy: Can voters vote if they refuse to wear masks? (Spoiler alert: The answer is yes).

The August primary came and went. About 100,000 people voted in person in Broward County, and Antonacci got no word of voters refusing to mask up at polling places, though a few reportedly did. An estimated three times as many voters will vote in person in November, so the question persists: What will happen if more voters refuse to wear masks?

The Sun Sentinel reports that people who show up at the polls without face masks will be allowed to vote. They will not be turned away, Antonacci said. They have the right to vote under federal law, which overrides a countywide mask mandate.

The story touched off a furor. The elections office was bombarded with calls, some of them hostile and accusing the elections chief, an appointee of former Republican Gov. Rick Scott, of endangering public health or tilting to the anti-masker crowd that tends to be pro-Trump. As reporter Lisa J. Huriash's follow-up article noted, every other Florida county we checked has a similar policy.

 

"I did not want to play into the hands of provocateurs," Antonacci told the editorial board Wednesday in a discussion he initiated after the story broke.

Before the primary, Antonacci's office circulated a list of precautions for voters and poll workers. It said: "Be mindful that Broward County has an ordinance requiring a face covering in all public places. You should bring a mask to vote; however, masks are available upon request at each polling location."

Antonacci said he discussed masks Wednesday with County Administrator Bertha Henry, who issued the order on April 10. "She assured me that Broward County's going to enforce the ordinance, and I said, 'That's your job,'" Antonacci told us. "I said the same thing to her I said to you: Let's not talk about it. Let's make sure that we're prepared."

We disagree. Let's talk about it.

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