Ohioans are encouraged to vote by mail and polling places are changing protocols to ensure social distancing regulations.
by Aubreyonna Van Hoose
American citizens are concerned how voting will look and that their votes will be counted due to the influence of COVID-19 on the upcoming election. How can voters stay safe and enact their right to vote without risking their personal health?
Before Coronavirus, every in-person voter would arrive at their designated polling place at a convenient time and cast their ballot without the concern of wearing masks or staying six feet apart. Now, every polling worker and voter has to take precautions to keep themselves and others safe. Here’s what we know about how each polling place will look on Election Day.
In person voting
On Election Day, each polling place is expected to follow social distancing regulations in accordance with the state’s standards, according to the Statehouse News Bureau. This also means voters are required to wear a mask, but Gov. Mike DeWine has said that voters not wearing masks cannot be turned away, basing his statement on the fact that polling workers shouldn’t be in the position to deny citizens their basic right to vote.
While it’s still possible to vote in-person, specifically for citizens that don’t have internet access or the ability to mail-in a ballot, Ohio’s legislatures are encouraging voters to engage in absentee or early voting to limit the lines on Election Day, according to the Brennan Center for Justice’s website.
Every registered Ohio voter either has been or will be sent a letter to request an absentee ballot. According to Lucas County’s Board of Elections’ website, those who request an absentee ballot can vote by mail or they are also eligible to vote early in-person.
Ohio.gov lists the benefits of absentee voting, stating “you can vote early, it is convenient, it reduces the chance of lines at the polls on Election Day, and absentee ballots are the first votes counted on Election Night.”
President Donald Trump has made numerous statements claiming that mailing in ballots will cause the election results to be inaccurate. According to the Los Angeles Times, Trump tweeted, “Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nation’s history – unless this stupidity is ended.”
States such as Nebraska, California, North Dakota and others have utilized mail-in voting for every election, specifically in certain counties with a smaller population according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And according to NPR, “Over the past 20 years … more than 250 million ballots have been cast by mail nationwide, while there have been just 143 criminal convictions for election fraud related to mail ballots.”
Tracking your ballot
As mail-in ballots are now causing others to speculate on the reliability of the postal system, VoteOhio.gov is promoting a ballot tracker on their website. Voters can track their ballot’s location by selecting their county and putting in their first and last name.
The Ohio legislature is promoting absentee ballots for this General Election by sending application forms through the mail, there are still various changes being made or that may be made throughout the nation according to the Brennan Center for Justice, such as curbside voting. But there are still concerns for certain voters— like nursing home residents.
ProPublica released an article explaining most nursing homes aren’t allowing visitors. Families or friends who’d help residents cast their vote are limited now due to COVID-19. And states such as Florida and Wisconsin, aren’t making voter support teams travel to help residents vote. According to the article, “voting assistance may be a low priority for understaffed institutions struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks.”
The situation is constantly changing, but the Lucas County’s Board of Elections’ website continues to offer updates on voting in the General Election and any county residents can send questions regarding their voting concerns.
According to Ohio Democratic County Chairs Association, voter registration for the General Election ends Oct. 5, while applications for absentee ballots are due Oct. 31.
For more information on what’s on the ballot and how to register to vote, visit ohio.gov to learn more.