Friday, April 24th, 2020

Elections officials prep for in-person primary vote

By William Kincaid
CELINA - Elections officials have kept busy working behind the scenes the last few weeks to prepare for Tuesday's in-person absentee vote to complete the March 17 primary election.
Gov. Mike DeWine's administration had ordered the closing of in-person polls on March 17 - the day originally designated as the state's primary election day - to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
The state Legislature then extended the primary election until April 28, making it a vote-by-mail election except for people who have disabilities or lack access to mail. They can cast their vote in-person on Tuesday.
"The phone has been ringing off the hook trying to figure out how we're going to hopefully end this election on Tuesday and be done with it and do it in a manner that can accommodate anybody who shows up to vote legally," Mercer County Board of Elections Director Deb Sneddon said.
On Tuesday, the Mercer County Courthouse auditorium will be open from 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. for certain people to cast their votes in-person. The in-person voting is limited to a few categories of people who have not already cast a ballot and were registered to vote as of Feb. 18, Secretary of State Frank LaRose said.
Permitted to vote in-person on Tuesday are people with disabilities and people who are unable to receive mail where they live or at another location, per LaRose's directive.
"The courthouse is the only place where voting is going to happen Tuesday," Sneddon said.
Eligible electors will cast their vote on one of four voting machines in the courthouse auditorium. Elections officials are taking extra precautions to make the site as safe as possible for all involved. They'll be equipped with hand sanitizers, alcohol wipes to clean machines, gloves and masks.
"They're going to be asked to wear either their own cloth mask, or I also have some new cloth masks," she said.
Elections officials will direct courthouse traffic and monitor social distancing. Only 10 people will be permitted inside the auditorium at a time. Outside, pieces of tape have marked spots to keep voters 6 feet apart while waiting in line.
Sneddon heaped praise on her staff and board of elections members, who have been coming in nearly every day to get ready for Tuesday's in-person vote.
"If they were scared to be here, I don't think they would be here," she replied when asked about the mindset of personnel. "It's a collaboration of all of us. I'm thankful for the staff that we have, and I also got about 10 other people that were called today, and they're going to show up on Tuesday as well to help man those stations."
In the meantime, those who have received and filled out their absentee ballot can return it by mail or deposit it at a drop box installed in the circle driveway at the north side of the courthouse. Ballots returned by mail must be sealed in the voter identification envelope, signed and postmarked by April 27.
"They already have the postage paid on them. We stamped them through our postage machine without a date," Sneddon said about the envelope. "In order to get the postmark, they need to physically take it in to their post office and have them put a canceled stamp on it so that we know that it went through the post office on the 27th."
Voters who choose to return their ballot at the drop box must do so by 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
So far, 8,436 ballots have been issued. Of those, 6,542 have been cast, either through early in-person voting before March 17 or by mail, Sneddon said.
LaRose said as of April 21, 1,667,883 Ohioans have requested a vote-by-mail ballot for the Ohio primary election and 975,158 had already cast a ballot.
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