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WKSU is looking for the answers to the questions you have about Ohio in a project we call "OH Really?" It's an initiative that makes you part of the news gathering process.

Poll Watchers, Souls to the Polls, and Curbside Voting: OH Really? Answers This Week's Election Questions

Summit County ballot drop box
Kabir Bhatia
Summit County and the other 87 counties in Ohio have security precautions in place for early voting and election day.

You have questions about voting this fall: specifically, how to stay safe when voting in-person. And every Monday, we’re reaching out to the experts to get answers as part our "OH Really?" election-protection project.

This week’s first question is from John Lenarduzzi, who wants to know what to do if there are poll watchers at his polling place on Election Day? He adds, “President Trump is encouraging Republican supporters to watch for fraud at the polls. I fear that unauthorized persons will be interfering.”

The state’s 88 Boards of Elections do have security measures in-place, and Faith Lyon -- head of the Portage County board – says there are two different categories of people who can be at the polls.

First are campaigners, who must be 100 feet from the building. They’re allowed to hand out literature, and wave signs – but they cannot interfere.

The campaigners are monitored by rovers throughout the county and Lyon says, “usually they’re respectful -- but if we do find a place where they are not being respectful, we will take action to educate them or to remove them if it is necessary.”

Inside the polling location, there are observers appointed by political parties and issue groups. Lyon refers to them as the “watchdogs” since their job is to observe and ensure that no one is being cheated of their vote, or being influenced while voting. They also cannot interfere, touch ballots, or process voters.

Free rides
Marianne Bricker asks how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted efforts to provide rides to the polls in various communities. While ride-share efforts are still happening -- such as “Souls to the Polls” in Cleveland – they are now practicing more safety precautions to prevent the spread of disease.

ABCD transport.jpg
ABCD Transport
ABCD Transport is providing the rides to the Stark County Board of Elections. The number of riders in each van is being limited to maintain social distancing.

Bob Gessner has organized the Stark County Voter Van with ABCD Transport. He says they’re cleaning the vehicles regularly, limiting the number of people in a van and encouraging people to wear masks when providing free door-to-door rides.

“I think it’s something that everybody thinks about, and I do hope people will use their best judgement based on their condition, their concerns, and comorbidities.”

Curbside voting
We received a related question, about curbside voting. Travis Secrest with the Stark County Board of Elections says it’s nothing new. It’s for people who are physically unable to get inside a polling location. He adds that it’s also now available for people who might be at-risk for exposure to coronavirus.

“Masks are required in polling locations. So if you go and forget your mask, we’ll have one available for you. If you’re still unwilling to do that, then we will utilize the curbside process at that point as well. We’re encouraging people to wear masks to make the day go smoothly.”

Secrest says they’re trying to ensure that one extra team of poll workers (one Democrat one Republican) is at each polling location specifically to handle curbside voters.

‘I Voted’ Stickers?

Ohio I Voted Sticker.jpg
Emily Legg, a senior at Teays Valley High School, redesigned the state's 'I Voted' sticker last year as part of a contest run by Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

The final question this week comes from Alan Waldinger, who wants to know if there be any items given out this year for in-person voting, such as the “I Voted” stickers. Those were actually redesigned last year by a Columbus-area teen. And Secretary of State Frank LaRose has confirmed that they’ll be available again this year.

If you have questions about voting – or want to read the answers to past election questions — visit wksu.org/ohreally. Next Monday night, October 26, WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia and M.L. Schultze will be hosting a Facebook Live event with Shantiel Soeder, Deputy Director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, and other experts to answer your questions, live!

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. While a Kent State student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.
A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.
M.L. Schultze came to WKSU as news director in July 2007 after 25 years at The Repository in Canton, where she was managing editor for nearly a decade. She’s now the digital editor and an award-winning reporter and analyst who has appeared on NPR, Here and Now and the TakeAway, as well as being a regular panelist on Ideas, the WVIZ public television's reporter roundtable.