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Florida Voters Had Coronavirus - Not Politics - On Their Minds

Poojah Pandya of Tampa sits alone outside a polling place in Northdale, north of Tampa
Steve Newborn
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Former Vice President Joe Biden cruised to a commanding win in Tuesday's Florida presidential primary Tuesday over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. But the biggest issue at the polls had little to do with politics.

Sandi Pollpeter of Carrollwood greeted everyone who entered her precinct on Erlich Road north of Tampa with a fresh squirt of hand sanitizer. 

"We have hand sanitizer at the door. We have hand sanitizer at the check-ins," she said of the efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus. "And then we are taking a sanitizing spray and we have wipes, and we're wiping down every single booth after they're done, wiping down every single pen when they're done, and then we're also taking that and we're spraying every door handle, inside and out. And we're only allowed to have four people in here at one time."

RESULTS: County-By-County Breakdown Of Biden's Sweeping Win

At that same precinct, Linda Burnham said nothing will stop her from going to the polls, even though she falls into a vulnerable category for those who contract COVID-19.

"I'm 73, but I'm taking precautions and I am at risk because I am a heart patient," Burnham said, "and I have other illnesses, but you have to do what you're told, stay out of crowds. You gotta vote. You've got to vote."

Poojah Pandya of Tampa was sitting alone outside a polling place in the Northdale section of Tampa. She says despite reporters that poll workers weren't showing up by the hundreds in Pinellas and other counties because of fears of contagion, all five poll workers at her precinct were at work.

"On Facebook and stuff like that, I do have friends who think I'm crazy that I'm working here today. But I am reassuring them that we are taking the proper precautions," Pandya said. "And we do have hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes and gloves if anybody wants them. We are wiping everything down in between."

Remington Innes voted in the Northdale precinct in Carrollwood.

"Nothing can stop me from voting," he said. "You've got to do your part, and if you want things to change you've got to do your part and vote."

Stephanie Fowler, a public school teacher in Hillsborough County, picked an off-time in late morning to go to her precinct north of Tampa.

An empty polling place in north Tampa
Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF Public Media
The Florida Channel
An empty polling place in north Tampa

"I tried to wait for a time I though there would not be any type of crowd in here. There is no line. I think I'm the only one in there," she said. "When I first got here, there was a total of three of us."

Floyd Jackson of Citrus Park lamented the lack of communication between Washington, D.C. and the states and municipalities about what is now a global pandemic.

"My biggest issue is to make sure there's transparency within people," he said. "And make sure there's transparency between the White House and governing bodies."

Jessica Davenport of Largo chose to vote by mail. She said she had other concerns on her mind than the coronavirus.

"I would probably say health care is the biggest issue for us," she said. "Three out of the four people in my home have autoimmune disorders. My son has type one diabetes. I have narcolepsy. So getting the right care, getting the right treatment, especially around type one diabetes, in terms of issues with the cost of insulin."

Even though Davenport was steps away from being able to vote at the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections headquarters in Largo, she chose to avoid the crowds. Davenport cut into a line of cars and handed her mail-in ballot at the drive-through in front of the office.



Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.