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Ohio Requires Face Masks At Polling Places. What Happens If A Voter Refuses?

A poll worker checks in an early voter at the Franklin County Board of Elections on Oct. 6, 2020.
Nick Evans
A poll worker checks in an early voter at the Franklin County Board of Elections on Oct. 6, 2020.

Ohioans are technically required to wear face masks when they vote in-person this election. But what happens if the voter refuses to wear one?

Gov. Mike DeWine has said that Ohio's order requiring face coverings in public places does apply to polling locations. Face masks are widely accepted by officials and public health experts as one of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose says face masks will be available made to voters who show up without one. If a voter refuses to wear a mask that's provided, they’ll be offered curbside service, so they can fill out a ballot from their cars.

But LaRose says voters are guaranteed the right to vote in the U.S. Constitution, so he has to allow them into the polls if they insist.

“If someone insists on coming inside and voting, what we are going to do is make sure there is social distancing, that everybody keeps six foot away, that any surface that they touch is wiped down," LaRose says.

LaRose says some Ohio businesses have stepped up to make sure there are plenty of masks and sanitizer stations available at early voting centers and polling places. Poll workers are also beingtrained in de-escalation in case a situation arises surrounding the face mask requirement.

LaRose says the best thing for a voter who doesn’t want to or cannot wear a mask is to vote absentee.

Voters can request absentee ballots until October 31, and then mail it or put it in a drop box at their local board of elections. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by November 2, but the ballot drop boxes are open until 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.

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.