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Firm designs plan for cities to cope with social distancing, high voter turnout

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Posted at 6:36 AM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 14:44:32-04

Texas kicked off early voting Tuesday. People stood in long lines, voting in ways they've never done before. Some lined up before daylight on sidewalks outside major sports arenas to allow for more physical distancing.

Early voting started Monday in Georgia and nearly 127,000 people cast their ballot, a first day record for the state.

“There were hours-long wait times in some locations and glitches that added to the challenges,” said Mike Lydon, a principal at Street Plans. “Voting rights and having access to a safe and convenient polling location is going to really drive participation.”

Street Plans is an urban planning and consulting firm that deals with transportation. They got a grant over the summer to put together a physical design plan for cities to best cope with social distancing, capacity restrictions and high voter turnout.

“How you can make use of streets and public spaces to alleviate some of those issues and of course add some comfort elements like tents, seats, sanitation stations periodically throughout the queue,” said Lydon.

The plans cover all types of polling locations, and how to properly do drive-up, curbside, outdoor and indoor voting.

There are many potential problems for election officials when situations can change quickly.

“COVID being this unknown variable, you could have a spike in the next three weeks at a certain location and that might totally change what was planned for in person indoor voting to go outdoors,” said Lydon.

Street Plans is also offering free consulting assistance to cities. The plans are also free to download on their website StreetPlans.com.