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Coronavirus In Ohio: Secretary Of State Issues Directive For Election Preparations

Security outside of the Franklin County Board of Elections on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
Ryan Hitchcock
Security outside of the Franklin County Board of Elections on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

Ohio has more of an idea about what this November’s election will look like, after the Secretary of State handed down a directive to all 88 county boards of elections.

Last month, the Secretary of State's Office was authorized to distribute almost $13 million of federal CARES Act funding for election preparations. Every board of elections will receive a block grant of at least $25,000 to cover additional costs from coronavirus-related precautions.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s instructions tells local boards to print additional ballots, get plenty of PPE and increase staff and poll workers. 

LaRose is also using about $1.5 million in federal funding to send out absentee ballot request forms to every registered voter. Because he expects up to half of Ohio voters to cast their ballots through the mail, LaRose instructed boards of elections to "promptly notify" voters if their ballot applications don't contain all the required information.

"Boards must utilize telephone numbers and email addresses to complete this process as quickly as possible. However, if electronic contact is not possible, boards must attempt to correct the missing information by mail," the instructions read.

During early voting and on Election Day, boards of elections are allowed to conduct health screenings. But they must all allow curbside voting to any voter who's unable to or concerned about entering the polling location.

To lower the risk of spreading COVID-19 to elderly residents and other vulnerable populations, LaRose told election boards to keep polling places away from nursing homes.

"If a board of elections has not done so already, the board must relocate any polling site currently at a residential senior citizen facility or health care facility," the directive says.  

LaRose suggests using public schools as a replacement. But he instructed boards to deploy staff to make sure nursing home residents and those with disabilities still have ample opportunity to vote. 

"Depending on the status of the current health crisis, several boards of elections will likely see nursing homes, hospitals, and similar facilities prohibit board of elections employees from entering the facility to help residents vote," his directive reads. "While election official, resident, and patient safety is paramount, such facilities must not prevent their residents and patients from voting."

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.
Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.