Comal Residents Ask Commissioners to Require Face Masks in Elections Office
A group of Comal County residents petitioned Commissioners Court on Thursday, asking that face masks be required for county employees working in the elections office and at voting polls.
According to their petition, poll workers, many of whom are senior citizens, are already reconsidering whether they will work if safety protocols are not in place, followed and enforced by the elected officials who are entrusted with governing and coordinating the election process.
Julie Swift, a 67-year-old New Braunfels resident who has worked in previous elections and helped to create the petition, said during her recent training as an election clerk she sat between two people who coughed and sneezed — and not wearing masks.
Like others, she noted that Elections Coordinator Cynthia Jaqua does not wear a mask and moves out from behind her plexiglass shield to interact with others training to be poll workers.
The Elections Office is small, and in addition to the 10 or so people training to work voting machines there are another three to four other unmasked volunteers helping out in the office, she said.
Several of them walked back and forth directly in front of Swift.
Swift said she’s aware of the safety measures the county thinks will keep voters safe — safely spaced voting machines, Plexiglas at check-in, sanitizing voting machines, hand sanitizer, daily screening of poll workers for COVID-19 symptoms — but doesn’t understand why wearing masks isn’t on their list despite an exception to Gov. Gregg Abbott’s executive order that recuses poll workers and voters from wearing masks.
“If I wear a mask and you wear a mask, we protect each other more effectively. This doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”
—Julie Swift, who has worked in previous elections
“I don’t think masks are a political statement,” she said. “If I wear a mask and you wear a mask we protect each other more effectively. This doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”
To review and/or sign the petition, click here.
The petition asks that masks be required and worn properly by county employees during business hours and at the polls.
According to the petition, two issues demand the attention of the court.
The first is that masks are not worn by employees in the Comal County Elections Office.
“Attending training on September 22, Lynn Silver, one of the 10 masked and socially distanced attendees in the class, noticed that County Election Coordinator/ Instructor, Cynthia Jaqua, was not wearing a mask. Ms. Silver stood from the back of the classroom and asked Ms. Jaqua to please wear a mask. Ms. Jaqua answered by saying the CDC does recommend wearing a mask but she is not required to wear one. Ms. Silver asked her again if she would put on a mask out of respect for those in attendance. Ms. Jaqua replied that she would not wear a mask because social distancing was being practiced. Ms. Silver, age 73 and in a high-risk category, thanked her and walked out of the class, unable to complete her training because she was concerned for her health. Ms. Silver called the County Clerk’s office and was told that the Elections office was not enforcing mask wearing for any employees in the Elections Office. Ms. Silver also called Judge Krause’s office, but he was unavailable.”
The petition’s second point is that it is a breach of public trust that social distancing is advertised but not practiced or enforced at the elections office.
According to the petition:
“Lynette Paris was at the elections office on September 21 for training. She states that all of the trainees present were wearing masks. Elections Coordinator/Instructor Cynthia Jaqua was not wearing a mask. In parts of her training where she was demonstrating how to use the machines, Ms. Jaqua stood side by side with attendees, and did not maintain 6-foot social distancing.”
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This story was updated on Oct. 2.