Coronavirus and Ohio’s election: Clark and Champaign taking precautions

Camille Hall, from the Clark County Board of Elections, wipes down voting booths for early voters Wednesday. The Board of Elections is taking steps to make sure polling places are clean and virus free. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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Camille Hall, from the Clark County Board of Elections, wipes down voting booths for early voters Wednesday. The Board of Elections is taking steps to make sure polling places are clean and virus free. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

The board of elections in both Clark and Champaign counties are taking precautions due to concerns regarding the spread of coronavirus in Ohio.

In Clark County, that includes moving a polling location for Tuesday’s primary election after a directive was sent from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to move polling places located in retirement or senior care facilities.

That polling location was at Fellows Terrace Apartments, 700 W. McCreight Ave., in Springfield. It will be moved to the National Trails Parks and Recreation District in Springfield at 1301 Mitchell Boulevard.

No polling locations have been moved in Champaign County since there are currently no polling locations located at senior facilities. The directive from LaRose called for polling to be moved even if it was located in a different building on the same property of a residential senior citizen facility. That could include a community center or activity room.

Polling places inside schools will not be moved because of logistical challenges but districts can decide whether to cancel classes on Election Day, LaRose added.

Springfield City School District buildings are used as polling places so schools will close on Tuesday, school officials said Friday.

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LaRose said that county Boards of Elections will be directed to have curbside drop off for absentee ballots on Election Day at the board offices — not the polling locations. Steps are being taken to make sure voting machines are disinfected and hand sanitizer is available at polling locations on Election Day, he added.

Clark County Board of Elections Director Jason Baker said his office is working on getting special disinfectant wipes that will not damage certain pieces of voting equipment such as an electronic pollbook. He said that there are also plans to get gloves for poll workers. He said that is in addition to making sure sanitizer is available for both poll-workers and voters in each of the county’s polling locations come election day.

Baker said his office is working on a backup plan in order to make sure polling locations have the supplies they need to ensure a safe voting environment.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said poll workers with health concerns should check with their medical providers now, rather than wait. The coronavirus is a respiratory condition marked by fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Those with chronic diseases and compromised immune systems, the elderly and health care workers are most at risk, she said.

Acton and LaRose urged Ohioans to vote early.

LaRose also warned Ohioans to guard against disinformation by seeking out information from credentialed journalists and other trusted sources.

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“We reinforce that it will be safe for poll workers to work but the responsible thing to do — this is no different than any of us in our workforce — the responsible thing to do is if you don’t plan to attend Election Day, you need to notify your board of elections right now. A no call, no show is not acceptable,” LaRose said.

Champaign County Board of Elections Deputy Director Jodi Flora said hand sanitizer as well as disinfectant wipes will be available at polling locations. That includes wiping down surfaces that will be touched by voters as well as poll workers. That includes wiping doorknobs and voting booths.

Flora said the board of elections is currently taking similar precautions at its office for early voting. She said more precautions may be taken for Tuesday’s primary election depending if additional decisions are made by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

Early voting hours for in both Clark and Champaign counties is 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. Election Day is March 17, and polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and if you are in line when polls close you will be allowed to cast a ballot.

In addition to precautions taken at the polls, the Springfield unit of the NAACP will be holding a community meeting regarding the coronavirus on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Greater Grace Temple, 380 W. Leffel Lane, in Springfield. It will feature Charles Patterson, who is the director of the Combined Health District, as a guest speaker.

The Clark State Community College Performing Arts Center (PAC) also announced Wednesday it has canceled or postponed all scheduled events through March 31.

The Springfield-Clark County Safety Council announced its meeting on April 14 has been canceled to minimize groups of people gathering as a measure to slow the spread of potential exposure to coronavirus. Their next meeting will be held on May 12 at the Courtyard Marriott.

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