Coronavirus In Ohio: Thousands Stand In Line For Last Weekend Of Early Voting

Mar 16, 2020

As coronavirus-related closures swept across Ohio, early voting thundered on ahead of Tuesday's primary election. Thousands of voters came out around the state to cast ballots in person on the final weekend of early voting.

In-person early voting ends Monday, March 16 at 2 p.m. Some voters said they planned to early vote all along, while others cited concerns about COVID-19 coronavirus.

"I want to reduce as much the exposure to crowded places," said Catalina Reasoner at the Franklin County Board of Elections on Morse Road.

Voters at the early voting center were greeted by workers wearing plastic gloves, and were offered gloves and hand sanitizer. Workers attempted to keep voters at a distance from each other, but with 130 machines in one room, it was a challenge.

Some voters even came out wearing masks.

"I'm just worried that on Tuesday, the polls are going to be closed, just because of the corona outbreak," said Alex Cornwell.

So far, there's no indication Ohio will shut down the March 17 primary. Gov. Mike DeWine noted Sunday that early voting has been up and running since February 19. 

At the Franklin County Board of Elections, some Ohioans showed up to early voting wearing face masks.
Credit Karen Kasler / Statehouse News Bureau

DeWine also insisted that the election doesn't count as a mass gathering, and therefore isn't subject to his order banning gatherings of over 100 people.

"People have the ability to separate at the elections," DeWine said.

Ohio Voting Guide: What To Know About The 2020 Election

Voting by mail also remains an option, but ballots must be postmarked by Monday. 

In line at the Board of Elections, several voters said they still anticipated crowds and long lines.

"Lines will be long on Tuesday, so I want to get it done and make sure I can without work concerns or anything like that," said Deniesha Newby. "Plus this is quicker, I always come here."

"I had time today, so I figured why not, might as well get it out of the way," said Courtney Skaggs.

"To beat the rush for one thing," Kenny Jackson said. "Cause I know it's going to be worse."

Last week, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose relocated 163 polling locations away from nursing homes and senior citizen residential facilities. Election workers have also stocked up on cleaning supplies to wipe down voting machines.

Franklin County Board of Elections Director Ed Leonard wouldn’t comment on whether there was a shortage of poll workers, but he did stress that they’re always looking for more of them. Poll workers can sign up here.

The Ohio Department of Health makes the following recommendations to protect yourself from illness:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; dry hands with a clean towel or air dry hands. 
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable. 
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Stay home when you are sick. 
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.

Ohio's coronavirus call center is open to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The hotline number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634.