COLUMBUS, Ohio — Voters heading to the polls in Ohio Tuesday for the 2021 General Election will encounter many of the same health and safety measures that were in place in 2020, election officials said.
What You Need To Know
- Most of Ohio’s large counties are encouraging residents to wear masks to vote
- Voters will see plexiglass barriers and spaced-out voting machines at the polls
- Officials said they aren’t expecting long lines or crowded voting locations Tuesday
Safety precautions at voting locations include spaced-out voting machines, additional sanitization and floor markings encouraging social distancing in lines.
Fewer voters are expected to turn out for Tuesday’s off-year election than would for midterm or presidential election years, which means crowding is less likely at voting places, officials said.
While masks are not required to vote, some counties suggest that voters wear face coverings. On Monday, at the Franklin County Board of Elections, about 50 people were in line at the one early voting location for the county, and nearly all wore masks inside to vote.
“Let’s put it this way: We strongly encourage voters to wear a mask and we will provide them if they don’t have one,” said Aaron Sellers, public information officer for the Franklin County Board of Elections. “If somebody wants to vote without a mask, we are certainly not going to stand in their way.”
After casting his ballot, Douglas Calem said he was appreciative that COVID-19 precautions are still in effect at voting locations.
“Everybody stayed six feet apart, and this time, people weren’t really squished together,” he said. “I was very happy to see almost everybody masked.”
Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Spokesperson Mike West said officials are not expecting excessive lines. He said voters can feel comfortable with the county’s robust COVID-19 protocols, noting that most residents have been wearing masks during early voting.
“We’re basically doing just about everything we did when we were in the very height of the pandemic,” he said.
Hamilton County officials said voters are encouraged to wear masks to keep voters and poll workers safe. Alexander Linser, deputy director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, said voting equipment will be sanitized after each use, among other health protocols.
In Lucas County, election workers are supplied with masks and gloves, and voters are given single-use styluses for the voting machines, according to Tim Monaco, deputy director of the county’s Board of Elections.
Unlike last year, Lucas County voting locations will not have signs advising voters that masks are strongly encouraged. The Ohio Secretary of State’s office hasn’t instructed boards of elections to place mask signage this cycle, Monaco said.
Sarah Greathouse, deputy director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said the county’s COVID-19 measures will be familiar for voters who came out in previous elections.
“We are asking our poll workers and voters to mask up and maintain distance and just remember that the folks working on Election Day are your friends and neighbors, folks you see at school and church,” Greathouse said.
For residents who shouldn’t enter a voting location due to COVID-19 quarantine or illness, the county is offering curbside voting, also available to residents with mobility issues.
At this point, Greathouse said they have some experience under their belt holding safe voting during the pandemic.
“This is our fourth election under the pandemic, and we have found that most voters are comfortable with precautions we have in place for in-person voting,” Greathouse said.
Digital Reporters Casey Weldon and Jennifer Conn contributed reporting.