Early voting as part of Ohio’s Primary Election has been underway for weeks. Election officials are urging voters to take advantage of the opportunity to cast their ballot before Election Day as a way to keep keeping the risk of Coronavirus/COVID-19 transmission as low as possible. Local election officials say they are cleaning all voting machines often and will have hand sanitizer at every polling location. Above, Tina LaRoche, deputy director of the Union County board of Elections, wipes down a voting machine during early voting at the board office. (Journal-Tribune photo by Mac Cordell)
State and local election officials are taking precautions to make sure “Election Day will go smoothly and safely for all Ohioans.”
Tuesday, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose held a press conference to announce certain steps his office and local election boards would take ahead of and during the Primary Election voting on Tuesday.
“Of course, the health and safety of our fellow Ohioans is always our top priority, but by acting smartly, we can balance that with the dual goal of conducting a free and fair election on March 17 and the voice of every Ohioan will be heard,” LaRose said in a prepared statement.
Tina LaRoche, with the Union County Board of Elections, said locally, election officials are taking “every precaution.”
“We are providing hand sanitizer, we are cleaning machines regularly, we are encouraging voters and poll workers to wash their hands regularly,” LaRoche said.
She explained that, “all best practices are being used to disinfect voting equipment on a regular basis for early voting and will be conveyed to all poll workers for Election Day.”
She said the board is holding a training today and wants to “make sure our poll workers understand the need to clean and sanitize all the touch screens, just to keep everybody safe.”
She said the board has bought hand sanitizers to be distributed to polling locations and available for all people working and voting.
“The screens on all machines will be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis,” LaRoche said.
Election officials have stressed that Election Day is different from other large public events or gatherings like the Arnold Fitness Classic or high attendance conferences.
“It is not as big, not as many people,” LaRoche said.
The makeup of the crowd is different as well. Election officials said Election Day takes place in small communities where neighbors gather who are more likely than not to interact in other ways every day – whether at school, in church, in the grocery store, or elsewhere.
“Unlike other large public events or gatherings, election day does not reflect a situation where bigger crowds from geographically different areas come into one tight space, which could cause greater concerns about virus transmission,” LaRose wrote in a statement.
Statewide, the Secretary of State moved any polling location inside a senior living facility. That move did not impact any local polling sites.
“We did not need to change any polling locations, as of now,” LaRoche said.
She said that for years residents voted inside the Richwood Civic Center, but that polling location was changed to the North Union High School about two years ago. The Board of Elections takes voting equipment to many of the assisted living homes in the county so residents can vote absentee.
LaRose said he and his team have had discussions and briefings with representatives from the CDC, U.S. and Ohio Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Governor DeWine, Ohio Department of Health (ODH), and Emergency Management Agency (EMA). He said the discussions have been happening for “several weeks.”
He added that he has been communicating with local boards, “so they have time to prepare for this important and necessary change.”
LaRoche said early planning made the process more effective.
“Thank goodness we were proactive in purchasing supplies because you can’t get them now,” LaRoche said.
LaRoche suggests voters take the opportunity to vote early to avoid the crowds or request an absentee ballot if they feel uncomfortable voting on Election Day, but should know that all precautions are being taken to keep our voters safe.
“If people are worried, they can always come into our office to vote or they can hand carry a ballot into the office,” LaRoche said.
LaRose also said this is, “a great time to remind all Ohioans that our state has ample early-voting opportunities.”
The board of elections office, 835 E. Fifth St., Marysville, will be open for in-person absentee voting from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day until Friday. The board will be open for voting Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The board will be open Monday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“All Ohioans should consider taking advantage of convenient vote from home by mail or voting at your county’s early voting location,” LaRose said.
LaRoche said voters who do not want to come into the office can also deliver their ballots without getting out of their car. She said that if a voter comes to the board office, a worker will come to the car and hand carry the ballot inside to be counted.
The board will allow voters to drop off their absentee ballots at their county board of elections on election day from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Just as is the case if a voter is in line at a voting location, as long as the voter is in line by 7:30 p.m., that voter will be able to cast their vote.