Scioto County navigating elections amid COVID-19 crisis


By Ivy Potter - ipotter@aimmediamidwest.com



According to the Scioto County Board of Elections, Coronavirus fears are already beginning to take a toll on elections scheduled for Tuesday.

The Scioto County Board of Elections Director Julia Gearhart stated that they have been receiving calls from those scheduled to work the polls stating they are not able to fulfill their duties due to fear of coming in contact with the illness. While a significant percentage of poll workers are often the elderly, who are the most susceptible to the virus, Gearhart stated the board is receiving notice from poll workers of all ages stating they will be unable to work Tuesday.

” It’s all ages. They’re scared of it and they don’t want to get out,” said Gearhart.

While the new voting equipment implemented during the previous election already reduced the mandatory number of poll workers in combined precincts, the board of elections is concerned they will not have enough workers to operate polls due to dropouts.

“They’ve only had a few so far, three or four. But we are expecting more,” said Gearhart.

The Scioto County Board of Elections is asking those willing to work polls Tuesday to contact the board and be put on a standby list in the event a substitute worker is needed.

“They need to call our office and let us know if they want to work as a Democrat or Republican, and we will direct them with the correct person to speak with. They can take their information and put them on standby,” said Gearhart. “In case we lose people they are trying to get together a group of people they can contact at a moment’s notice that would be ready to work.”

Gearhart stated that there is also a concern that voters won’t show up to the polls for fear of COVID-19. To combat these fears and take necessary precautions to limit potential germs, the Scioto County Board of Elections stated disinfectant wipes will be used on equipment between voters, and hand sanitizer will be available at each voting location.

In other precautionary measures, the Ohio Secretary of State has ordered the relocation of polling locations previously in retirement homes or senior living communities. Locally, this will move the polls from Hillview Retirement Center, located at 1610 28th Street in Portsmouth, to Christ Community Church, located at 2433 25th Street in Portsmouth.

Beyond the actual voting process, the Scioto County Commissioners announced Friday that postelection operations at the Scioto County Courthouse will change in compliance with orders from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Election Day.

“It has been the past practice for candidates and spectators to congregate within the rotunda of the Scioto County Courthouse to watch as the election results are reported,” stated the announcement. “In order to comply with the Director’s Order issued by Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), in conjunction with the Governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, limiting and/or prohibiting mass gatherings in the State of Ohio, the Scioto County Board of Commissioners, Scioto County Courthouse Security and the Scioto County Board of Elections have determined that it is necessary to limit the Election Day activities conducted within the Scioto County Courthouse.”

According to commissioners, policies for Election Day will now include the Courthouse remaining open to the public until 7:30 p.m., but with limited individuals in attendance to view results.

Candidates and one designee will be permitted to view incoming numbers projected in the building’s rotunda, but they must contact the head of courthouse security by Monday, March 16, 2020, at 4 p.m. with their name and the name of their guest. Candidates and guests must be at the public entrance of the Scioto County Courthouse by 7:30 p.m. Media personnel are also asked to be present at this time and must have credentials to gain access.

Commissioners apologized for any inconvenience but stated these policies are in an effort to protect citizens of the county.

The Daily Times will be updating throughout the evening on election results online and with unofficial results in Wednesday’s print edition.

By Ivy Potter

ipotter@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach: Ivy Potter (740) 353-3101 Extension 1932

© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach: Ivy Potter (740) 353-3101 Extension 1932

© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved