Mass. poll workers to mask up with donated face coverings

LEOMINSTER, Mass. — To ensure the safety of those working at polling places on Election Day, a Leominster furniture manufacturer plans to donate enough high-quality facemasks to protect every poll worker who needs one in Massachusetts on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

AIS plans to announce Tuesday that it is working with state and local officials to make sure the masks are delivered ahead of Election Day. Already, more than 235 city and town clerks have requested mask donations from AIS, with some asking for as few as 10 and others seeking as many as 1,500 masks.

“AIS’s generous donation of masks to each community who chooses to participate ensures that poll workers, volunteers and voters will be safe during this election season,” Nancy Talbot, clerk for the town of Ware and president of the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association, said in a statement released to the News Service by AIS. “We are so thankful that AIS stepped forward to be of help when so many communities are strapped financially.”

The effort got started after Leominster City Clerk Katelyn Huffman appealed to AIS, saying fiscal challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have made it difficult to acquire equipment to protect people from the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus.

Company CEO Bruce Platzman said AIS expects to deliver more than 22,000 facemasks to city and town clerks for use by municipal employees, poll workers and volunteers. The first shipments left the company’s Leominster headquarters last week.

AIS, which makes commercial office furniture and seating products, began making masks in April when the pandemic gripped the nation. In May, it established a national Sew the Masks initiative and the company and its corporate sponsor partners have donated and distributed nearly 150,000 masks nationwide to date.

“Our democracy relies on the ability of all citizens to be able to freely and safely cast their votes in person on Election Day,” Platzman said. “These dedicated poll workers in each municipality — many of whom have served their communities for years â€" are in every way the frontline essential personnel that make the democratic process function."

Mail-in voting and an early voting period that begins Oct. 17 are both expected to help alleviate crowds at polling places on Nov. 3, but in-person voting on election day is still likely to be brisk at some polling places due to the high turnout associated with presidential elections.

AIS said that it coordinated its efforts with Secretary of State William Galvin, who oversees elections, and began working with municipal clerks Sept. 30 to arrange deliveries of donated masks. Dozens more communities requested masks by Monday after 200 cities and towns sought free masks deliveries last week.

On Monday, Galvin predicted turnout in this year’s election will eclipse the 3,375,801 ballots cast in 2016, and projected that more than one million people will turn up at local polling locations on Nov. 3. He said he’s encouraging local officials to find polling locations large enough to accommodate a surge in voters while enabling social distancing and preventing long lines.

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