Following reporting from Townhall and others that Virginia voters were being required to wear a mask in order to cast a ballot on Tuesday, Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Chris Piper reminded poll workers that masks could not be a prerequisite to voting.
"We have gotten several reports of voters either being turned away or being made to wait until the polling place is clear before being allowed to vote if they refuse to wear a mask," Commissioner Piper wrote.
"You may not turn voters away because they are not wearing masks," he reiterated, echoing official guidance issued in September 2020 (see below). "While masks are encouraged, every eligible voter is entitled to cast a ballot at their polling place," Piper said, adding "it is not sufficient to offer curbside voting as an alternative."
"Additionally," Piper clarified, "you may not hold up the line to vote based on whether voters are wearing masks."
Virginia election commissioner reminds poll workers that they may NOT impose a mask mandate on voting in Virginia. If someone working the polls tries to suppress your vote, know your rights. pic.twitter.com/8Vp0BjNHhc— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) November 2, 2021
As Virginians headed to vote on Election Day, reports began to surface Tuesday morning that some were being told a mask must be worn in order to enter a polling location and cast a ballot.
Just got this text. They were trying to require masks at my polling place in a jurisdiction with no mask mandate in place. pic.twitter.com/WqgcyO4LYF— Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) November 2, 2021
To be clear, this is illegal voter suppression. You may vote at any polling place in Virginia — even in schools — with or without a mask no matter what local election officials tell you. https://t.co/YcOmPWFJnN— Charlie Hurt (@CharlesHurt) November 2, 2021
I was told at my polling station I couldn’t vote without a mask. Knowing what the GOP thinks about masks, isn’t this just an illegal barrier to voting? But I can count on one thing our judges will do nothing.— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) November 2, 2021
Townhall independently verified that a handful of Virginians who cast ballots in-person this morning were told masks were required to vote as well.
As claims of similar incidents continued to surface, the Republican Party of Virginia tweeted that "if someone is not wearing a face covering they may NOT be turned away or refused their right to vote."
There have been several reports from voters who say they were told by poll workers that they are required to wear a mask in order to vote.— Virginia GOP (@VA_GOP) November 2, 2021
To be clear, if someone is not wearing a face covering they may NOT be turned away or refused their right to vote. pic.twitter.com/bvLzWA7m26
In addition, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund also tweeted out a message reiterating masks are "not required at polling sites in Virginia" and that voters who forget or don't wear a mask "should not be turned away for not having a mask."
Masks are encouraged but not required at polling sites in Virginia. If you forgot your mask, you should not be turned away for not having a mask. You should either request one from your polling place or request to vote curbside. pic.twitter.com/aG1kGOQrgL— Legal Defense Fund (@NAACP_LDF) November 2, 2021
The chief counsel for the RNC also clarified that Virginia's Department of Elections declared there is no masking requirement to vote.
This is important information for Virginia voters. The Dep’t of Elections has also made clear to all localities today that there is no mask requirement to vote. https://t.co/8T2ngqPS6a— Justin Riemer (@Justin_Riemer) November 2, 2021
According to official guidance from the Virginia Department of Elections issued on September 9, 2020 election workers cannot require a voter to wear a mask in order to cast a ballot and "cannot turn a voter away because they refuse to use a mask."
The guidance also declares that poll workers "cannot turn a voter away because they refuse to submit to a temperature check or if their temperature measures higher than usual" and even if a "voter is symptomatic and insists on voting in the polling place, you cannot turn them away."
While that's already a pretty clear ban on turning away voters for not wearing a mask, having a fever, or being otherwise symptomatic, the guidance spells it out even more explicitly: "A voter may insist on voting in-person. Your election official cannot turn away a voter."