How do Palm Beach County’s civic, business and community leaders feel about guidelines for wearing masks to guard against coronavirus?
How comfortable are they with the way the county is reopening?
And what, if anything, will they miss about their time sequestered during this crisis?
The third Palm Beach Post Power Poll asked those questions of 429 leading citizens, including lawmakers, business owners and more, and 148 responded.
The first Power Poll question was “The use of masks has become a topic of debate, especially as states continue to reopen businesses and outdoors areas. Which option most closely resembles where you stand?” Almost half of the respondents, 46.2 percent, or 69 of the 148 who answered the survey, agreed with the statement “Everyone should wear masks when they’re out in the public.”
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link is the current top elections official in the county. Wendy oversees a multimillion-dollar budget, over 50 employees, thousands of poll workers, and the voting, registration and electoral process in Palm Beach County and its 39 municipalities.
Shortly after becoming Supervisor of Elections, Wendy successfully oversaw the 2019 municipal elections where Palm Beach County had forty-seven different elections on the ballot followed by four run-off elections. During the 2020 Presidential Preference, Wendy implemented a series of safety and security solutions to ensure the election was completed successfully during the COVID-19 crisis.
As a member of the Florida Supervisor of Elections Association, Wendy, along with other Supervisors, crafted a series of recommendations to make voting easier, safer, and more convenient as we brace for the impacts of COVID-19 on our elections.
Wendy has implemented a series of firsts in Palm Beach County to support local elections, including:
- More locations and longer hours during Early Voting for the August and November 2020 elections,
- A monetary raise for poll workers (first time in nearly a decade),
- More information provided in Spanish and Haitian-Creole to serve our Hispanic community,
- Opposed voter suppression efforts,
- Pre-paid return postage on all Vote-By-Mail ballots,
Focused on integrity, accountability, and service, Wendy has worked to instill confidence in the county’s elections and ensure that every vote is counted fairly and accurately.
Voter Registration – Wendy is making voter registration outreach, education, and training a top priority. Wendy’s office has held hundreds of events and programs with groups across Palm Beach County to increase voter registration and participation.
Investing in Technology and Security – Wendy brought a laser focus to modernizing the Supervisor of Elections Office by utilizing the latest technology, cybersecurity, and voting equipment available. These investments have brought the elections office up-to-date and into the 21st century. Palm Beach County now has voting and tabulation equipment on par with the rest of Florida.
Increasing Access – Wendy is placing a new focus on customer service; she moved the election’s office onto a new user-friendly and ADA compliant website that allows voters the ability to track their Vote-By-Mail Ballot and more easily update their voter information. She is overseeing the design of an all-in-one Election Office, which will provide for easier access, greater security, productivity, and cost-efficiency for taxpayers of Palm Beach County.
Prior to serving as Supervisor of Elections, Wendy was the President of a business law firm and worked with organizations on strategic initiatives, crisis management, and leadership development. Wendy was named in The Best Lawyers in America for Real Estate Law and named one of “The 50 Most Influential Women in Palm Beach and Broward Counties” by Fast Track magazine. Learn more about Wendy at www.WendyForSOE.com.
Paid by Wendy Sartory Link, Democrat, for Supervisor of Elections
23 percent of the respondents, or 35 people, felt that “Masks should be required for employees/customers of specific businesses, including grocery stores and nail and hair salons and barbershops.” About 11 percent believed that “Masks should be mandatory for airline travel and any mass transit option that cannot accommodate safe social distancing,” but 18.24 agreed that “As long as you maintain proper social distancing, masks should not be required, but recommended.”
“Regrettably, too many people are flaunting the advice to wear masks and gloves and maintain proper distance,” said Lynn University Director of American Studies, Robert Watson commented. And former longtime Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick said that residents should “continue to be smart and safe...demonstrate your respect for other people by wearing your mask.”
The second Power Poll question focused on the respondents’ feelings about reopening. They were asked “What’s your comfort level with Palm Beach County’s reopening process?” Nearly half of those who answered, or 45.9 percent, agreed with the statement “I am confident that our state and local leaders are setting safe and reasonable guidelines.” Another 22.30 percent agreed that “I agree with reopening, but with stricter guidelines, including 25 percent capacity for retail/restaurants and no congregating on beaches.” Interestingly, 31.76 percent agreed that “sheltering-in-place orders should have been maintained at least through the end of May.”
“Sooner we open, the better,” responded Palm Beach State Attorney's Office spokesman Mike Edmondson. Meanwhile, Julie Seaver, Executive Director of Lake Worth’s Compass LGBTQ Community Center, commented that while she understood “the need for entering into reopening phases, slowly, smartly and safely,” she felt that “mis-report(ing) of the testing numbers...to encourage the phases of reopening has instilled a lack of trust in most of us. Transparency is KEY to the success of reopening.”
And Patrick Franklin, president and CEO of the Urban League of Palm Beach County, is concerned that “we have not done enough to protect the most vulnerable in our community, the front-line workers who are going back to work to support their families,” and that those people “do not have an adequate supply of PPE’s at their respective workplace to sustain an extended period after reopening.” He also said there had not been “enough testing in the low-income minority communities throughout Palm Beach County. A plan of action needs to be developed and implemented for continuous testing. Be safe and make good decisions.”
The third and final Power Poll question concerned the unexpected time at home that many in the county found themselves with during the lockdown. They were asked, “As we gradually regain some normalcy to our everyday lives, what will you miss most about sheltering-in?” More than half, or 52.70 percent, responded that they would most miss “time with my family that’s often lost through our hectic schedules,” while 31.08 percent said that “I will miss nothing about sheltering-in.” Meanwhile, 12.16 percent of respondents said they would miss “opportunities to start or complete household projects, discover a hobby or improve a skill, such as cooking,” and 4.05 percent said they’ll miss “opportunities to start or complete household projects, discover a hobby or improve a skill, such as cooking.”
Jan Cairnes, CEO of the Hanley Foundation, had a different take on the subject of how the stay-at-home orders have affected her time. “I’m working an average of three additional hours per day because I am working from home. I don’t have time for household projects, cleaning out my closet, sewing, or any of those things that you might spend time doing if you had leisure time at home. My leisure time is really limited to weekends.”