No mask? NJ primary voters will be turned away from polls, Murphy says
TRENTON — Voters should prepare to wear a mask at their polling places this spring and summer, according to the governor.
“I think that if you refuse to wear a mask, we’re not letting you in, it’s that simple,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at Wednesday's state briefing.
It's the same policy that was in place, without any reported issues, at a very light day of school board elections last week on April 20, in just six districts around the state.
The governor was asked about whether mask wearing would be required at polling places and whether voters could be prohibited from entering for the primaries on June 8 and even earlier for non-partisan municipal elections on May 11.
“I mean you’ve got to wear a mask if you’re going into a store, going into a restaurant; gotta wear one going to the Motor Vehicles Commission," the governor said, adding that it was unlikely to change by early June.
“I don’t expect that we will require poll workers to be vaccinated but strongly, strongly, strongly encouraged," he added, in response to a specific question.
Pre-pandemic, voter turnout at the state's primary has been historically low. In 2019, just 8% of more than 5.85 million eligible voters participated, casting 489,710 ballots.
Last year, the state held its primary elections mainly by mail-in ballots a month later than usual, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, Murphy announced that this year's primary would revert back to mainly in-person.
As always, voters can request a vote-by-mail ballot for any reason.
"All in-person polling places will adhere to proper health and safety protocols, including face coverings, social distancing, and frequent sanitization," according to the state COVID-19 resource website.
As of Wednesday morning, 4.17 million in New Jersey had received at least one vaccine dose, while 2.91 million had been fully vaccinated. So far, roughly 41,000 of those with at least one shot (1%) were 16- or 17 year-olds.
The state has now reached 62% of its goal of having 4.7 million fully vaccinated adults by June.
Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outdoors, except in certain crowded settings and venues, according to updated federal guidance out Tuesday.
In referring to the CDC guidance before answering specific questions on polling places, Murphy said “Remember that masking up remains mandatory in indoor settings, except when you’re eating or drinking.”
There were 1,768 COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide as of Wednesday.