Coronavirus Concerns Forcing Changes For Next Week's Primary

Mar 10, 2020

Thousands of Ohio voters are finding out if they want to vote on election day, they’ll have to go to a new place to cast their ballots for the St. Patrick’s Day primary next week. The state is moving 128 polling places out of nursing homes and senior residential facilities because of concerns about spreading coronavirus to residents.

(NOTE: This story has been updated with a list of the new polling places.)

With a week to go before the primary, Secretary of State Frank LaRose said boards of elections will be able to move these polling places following the announcement of the first positive coronavirus cases in Ohio.

“We don’t want to overreact; we want to react smartly," LaRose said.

It’s not a lot of time, so Jen Miller with the League of Women Voters of Ohio said she’ll encourage early voting to those thousands of affected voters.

“Clearly it would be great to have more time, but how do we provide more time in this situation?” Miller said.

Mailings are going out to voters whose polling places are being moved. They can request a ballot by mail before Saturday – but it has to be postmarked on Monday or dropped off at the board of elections on Tuesday.

A full list of the new polling place locations is here.

People who live in those facilities are affected too.

“Those residents expected that they were going to vote on election day, that they were just going to walk down to the community space in their facility and they were going to cast their vote," said Franklin County Board of Elections Director Ed Leonard. He said his office is working with the facilities to make sure those residents will be able to vote.

And LaRose also said he directed boards of elections to start communicating a message to an estimated 35,000 poll workers: “It will be a safe environment on election day. It is safe to be a poll worker.”

But LaRose is also trying to recruit new poll workers to replace ones who no longer want to work.

LaRose said because so many of the 3,658 polling places are at schools, it’s impractical to move them, but schools could close if they’re concerned.

LaRose also said voting machines at all polling places will be wiped down, and Miller said hand sanitizer will be available for voters.