NOEL KING, HOST:
Chris Anderson is supervisor of elections in Seminole County, Fla. That means he is running this thing during a pandemic, a surge of mail-in voting, attempting to keep people safe for in-person voting and, at times, the president questioning the legitimacy of the process. He's taken some time for us this morning. Hi, Chris.
CHRIS ANDERSON: Good morning. Thank you.
KING: Thanks for being with us. We came across your name in a great profile by Eli Saslow in The Washington Post. And you told him you are getting, like, 96 calls and texts a day from voters in Seminole County. What are they asking? What are they worried about?
ANDERSON: Well, you know, they're concerned about COVID-19 safety. They're concerned about their vote-by-mail ballots. They're concerned overall about how the election process is going to take place in the midst of everything that's going on the world today.
KING: And I imagine those calls and texts are not restricted from, like, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m..
ANDERSON: No, it isn't. You know, I'll get the occasional Facebook message as well and, you know, because they're receiving different types of mailers, so they want to make sure that the things that they're receiving both through phone calls and texts, that they are legitimate.
KING: I know that you are very worried about COVID safety and that you have been taking all kinds of precautions. You've said you feel like MacGyver. Can you tell me about the Q-tips that people in Seminole County will be signing in with when they vote in person?
ANDERSON: Well, sure. You know, ingenuity is sparked by trust within an organization. I believe if the organization trusts me as the leader and I trust them, then then the creativity takes place. So the team member brings in the idea, then we put it together. You know, it would have cost us over a quarter of a million dollars a purchase - to service 328,000 voters in regards to pens and stylus, which is one of the main things - two pieces equipment that voters are using. So we had to get creative. We quite literally went to every Dollar Tree in the county, and we bought as many Q-tips as we could. Five dollars will buy you 1,500 Q-tips. And we put aluminum foil tape around them, and that serves as a conductor of the static electricity from your body to allow you to sign on an iPad. One use for one voter. We limit the transmission of germs between voters and the election workers. And that's just another way we keep people safe as they vote here in Seminole County.
KING: Everybody gets a Q-tip. What about misinformation? Some of it is coming from the president. He says that mail-in voting will lead to fraud. Is this making your job more difficult?
ANDERSON: Well, certainly the confusion that was around it. You know, there's a difference between universal mail, or what we call all-mail ballot, elections in the state of Florida and vote-by-mail in the state of Florida. So the difference is very simple. All-mail ballot means we're sending ballots out to every registered voter on the voter roll whether they requested it or not. Vote by mail is the only method of voting in the state of Florida that requires communication from the voter ahead of time, so we're not sending ballots out to people that are not requesting it. And it's actually illegal in the state of Florida to put candidate contests on an all-mail ballot election - that by Florida statute. So that's not something that's going to happen here in the state of Florida. That created a lot of confusion. I've been able to explain that in great detail so now everybody understands, well, OK, you're sending ballots to folks that are expecting it. Ballots are political currency. We would never send any type of other currency in the mail without first alerting the person that they're receiving that currency in the mail. And that's the same thing with our ballots. Ballots are going to folks that have requested them, which is a good thing.
KING: In light of COVID, are you encouraging people to vote by mail or is that not your job?
ANDERSON: Absolutely. That was one of the first things. We were the first supervisor of elections office in the state of Florida to send out the mail ballot request form to every voter because it was logical to say that the safest way to vote in the midst of this pandemic is to vote at home, right? So we knew if we pushed folks to vote by mail that would limit them coming to the polling locations because at the polling locations, as you know, we have to do many different things from room occupancy rate control to, you know, social distancing and a lot of different things of that nature in in-person voting, which could create some longer wait times. So if we can get folks to vote by mail, it's very convenient. They don't have to wait. And they can be safe.
KING: In the last seconds that we have left, may I ask you, what is the main thing keeping you up at night?
ANDERSON: The main thing that's keeping me up at night is just making sure that voters have the right information. Between now and Election Day, they're going to receive a lot of stuff in their mailbox. My advice to each and every voter across the country, if you have questions about your vote by - your elections administration, contact your local administrator.
KING: Get in touch with you. Chris Anderson, election supervisor for Seminole County, thanks.
ANDERSON: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.