COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Monday that some polling locations in next week’s primary election will be moved due to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
In a video, LaRose said, “I am ordering certain polling locations which are senior citizen living and nursing facilities be relocated for the upcoming March 17 Ohio primary.”
LaRose goes on to suggest voters take advantage of the state’s early voting or absentee voting options.
The Franklin County Board of Elections announced Tuesday 16 precincts would be moving to alternate locations.
The Secretary of State has made these changes to protect some of the highest risk individuals in Ohio.
There are no plans to move any polling locations out of schools. LaRose said that would be impractical due to the sheer number that would need to move, and so far, COVID-19 does not appear to affect young people as much as it does older adults.
At nursing and assisted living facilities, some residents will be disappointed, according to staff.
“There are still a lot of them who are very old school and still like to be able to hit their own ballot and know that it electronically got taken in at that time,” said Christine Bush, the director of independent living at Thurber Tower in Columbus.
All 88 Ohio county election boards have been instructed to assist older adults in these facilities with the application process for an absentee ballot. They are making arraignments to pick those ballots up as well.
Many of these facilities are taking further steps to limit access to their buildings. Visitors will not be allowed into the building until they are screened by having their temperature taken.
Anyone with a temperature higher than 99 degrees will not be allowed to enter the building.
Some facilities will also be instituting a 15-minute time limit and possibly keeping visitors at least six feet away from residents.
In the meantime, LaRose said there is still a need for help at the polls on Election Day. The Ohio Department of Health says it will be working with the County Board of Elections to ensure polling locations are clean, disinfected, and safe for voting next Tuesday.
LaRose said if you are a poll worker and do not plan to work the election due to coronavirus fears, you should let your Board of Election know immediately; a no-call-no-show is unacceptable.
If you do not want to go to the polls on Election Day, you can still request an absentee ballot. Even though you technically have until Saturday to request one, the Secretary of State’s office is recommending you do so immediately.
It takes several days to send it to you in the mail, and you must have it postmarked by Tuesday, March 17, to have it counted, or you can return it to your County Board of Elections Headquarters on Election Day. Do not take it to your polling location.