Ohio voters with COVID-19 concerns can vote at the curb

Jeff Parsons of Riverside uses curbside voting to cast his ballot at the Montgomery County Board of Elections Wednesday, Oct. 28.
Jeff Parsons of Riverside uses curbside voting to cast his ballot at the Montgomery County Board of Elections Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Credit: Josh Sweigart

Credit: Josh Sweigart

Service could be cumbersome on Election Day.

Voters wanting to cast a ballot on Election Day but afraid to go inside their polling place because of the coronavirus pandemic have the option of voting curbside in their vehicles.

Curbside voting is not new, but the potential for increased use has some elections watchers concerned about a strain on resources and confusion when the polls close.

Mia Lewis with the Election Protection Coalition warned volunteers in pollwatcher training last week to look out to make sure people have access to this voting option.

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“It’s been operated very differently in different counties and some are doing a great job and some are not,” she said.

All Montgomery County polling places will have large signs displaying the voting location manager’s phone number that voters can call from a curbside voting spot or handicap spot to request curbside voting, Montgomery County Board of Elections Director Jan Kelly said.

“It might take some time because curbside voting at the poling location isn’t a quick process but it is available at all of our locations as it’s always been,” Kelly said.

In Greene County, a voter in line will act as a placeholder for those needing to vote curbside, according to Greene County Board of Elections Director Llyn McCoy.

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“Usually a voter in line is nice enough to act as a placeholder,” McCoy said. “If not a poll worker will mark the line.”

“It has worked out well here during early voting,” she said. “We have not had an overwhelming number of curbside voters here so we will see what election day brings.”

Curbside voting demands additional resources, because each voter must be met at his or her vehicle by one pollworker from each party, who together gather the voter’s information, deliver the voter a ballot and retrieve the ballot.

“(Elections officials) are not huge fans of curbside voting because it takes up a lot of their resources so they have not made a big effort to advertise it, and I understand why although it’s something that should be advertised if it’s something that’s available to all Ohio voters," Lewis said.

In some areas, voters are given a phone number to call to request curbside voting. In others, pollworkers staff a curbside station. Other places require the voter to bring a second person with him or her to go inside and request curbside voting.

Just like standing in the normal line, those people waiting in line to vote curbside when the polls close at 7:30 p.m. can cast a ballot. A problem that could arise is confusion about where the line is because people will be in their cars.

Election Protection Coalition workers advised people with mobility issues or concerns about COVID-19 to vote early if possible and avoid issues on Election Day. They advise anyone who sees problems at the polls to call their hotline 866-OUR-VOTE.

Curbside voting is available to anyone who can’t get into a polling place or wait in line because of mobility issues or who doesn’t want to vote inside their polling place because of COVID-19 concerns.

People who refuse to wear a mask in their polling place will also be given the option of curbside voting, though, they will be allowed to vote inside if they insist on doing so.

Curbside votes will be counted after the election along with late-arriving mailed ballots once the voters' information is verified.

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