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Government & Politics
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.

OH Really? Answers Your 2020 Voting Questions

photos of early voting line at Summit County Board of Elections.
Sarah Taylor
/
WKSU
Answers to your questions about early voting, getting candidate information, ballot drop off, and what to expect on Election Day.

What to wear
In Ohio, campaigning is prohibited within 100 feet of a polling place. But what about inside a polling place?

There have been reports of people stopped by poll workers for wearing campaign attire in a polling place – or sometimes for wearing shirts with a message.

Summit County Board of Elections Chairman Bill Rich says if that happens, a voter will be asked to cover up or, if possible, turn the garment inside-out. “It would be something that advocates the election of a candidate or the candidates of a party. Or voting in favor of -- or against – a ballot issue.”

But he adds, “’Black Lives Matter’ is not considered electioneering, so it’s not prohibited within the early vote center.”

Cheat sheets?
Another listener asks if you can bring a “cheat sheet” into the voting booth – and if it can be on your phone. Rich says cheat sheets are fine, whether electronic or printed.

Poll watching
John Lenarduzzi 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 Portage County Director Faith Lyon 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 votes.

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.

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.”

In Akron, voters who need a ride can contact the NAACP.

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.

Ballot boxes at polling places
Lori from Hudson asks, "Why can't ballot drop boxes be placed outside every in-person voting [location] on Election Day, guarded by election poll workers?" She’d like to be able to drop her mail-in ballot at a polling place.

Lyon says they are always looking for ways to “expedite the process,” but she can’t say whether she’d be for or against having ballot drop-off at polling places.

She says if it happened, though, “that’s going to slow down the results on election night. When they drop [in-person] votes off at our office on Election Day, as soon as we get them, we can begin processing them and scanning them.” But she says absentee ballots – whether delivered inperson or by mail -- are counted as soon as they arrive ahead of Election Day. Counting them on election night, along with the day’s in-person ballots, starting at 7:30 p.m. would delay results even longer.

Staying safe, in-person
"With more voters using the mail-in process, the longer it will take to verify election results. Secretary of State Frank LaRose said not to expect official results until November 24, as up to 50 percent of voters may use a mail-in ballot. That sounds scary." -- Anonymous listener

Lyon says that not having a final count on November 3 is nothing new.

“On election night, the results that you [see] are unofficial. Those are not the full tabulation of votes.”

She adds that it’s simply absentee ballots and those filled-in during the day. The election night total does not include ballots postmarked by November 2, which still have 10 days to arrive at the Board of Elections. Provisional ballots cast on or before Election Day are also not included.

The secretary of state has ordered results to be certified this year by November 18, so there is adequate time for a recount if necessary before the Electoral College meets December 14.

Counting votes?
Joe from Summit County asks, “How do I know if my vote was counted? I have gotten this question from a number of folks who believe the election will be ‘rigged.’”

Lyon says, “I can assure you, in Ohio, the election will not be rigged. In fact, every ballot is accounted for by a two-person team – one Democrat and one Republican.

“And for those who vote in-person, they’re actually casting their ballot while they’re voting -- so they can be assured their ballot is being tabulated at that time," Lyon said.

Drop box security and delivering ballots
Cynthia from Stark County asked if there are security cameras at the county ballot drop boxes? And she asks, “if a person would happen to drop off numerous ballots, and the camera footage shows the action, would all of the ballots in the drop box be negated – even if they were not dropped off by that person?”

Ohio has very specific rules about who can drop off a ballot for another person – mostly limited to family (spouse, father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, half-sibling, son, daughter, adopting parent, adopted child, stepparent, stepchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece).

In the instance where someone is dropping off ballots which they are not legally permitted to – such as for neighbors - Lyon says there would be an investigation of the ballots that were dropped off in groups with similar addresses. She adds that this would not affect the other ballots in the drop box.

The drop box – like the ones in every county in Ohio – does have a surveillance camera. And it has two locks, which can be opened only by a team of one Democrat and one Republican.

Candidate information
Lauren in Kent asks, “where can I find an unbiased description/list of candidates for my area? It's been hard researching local and national candidates and their political views without being bombarded with opinionated commentary.”

Jen Miller, director of the Ohio League of Women Voters, says one of the best resources is from the League of Women Voters itself. At vote411.org, you can enter your address to check your registration, view your ballot and read about issues and candidates.

Another resource is called “Judicial Votes Count,” created by the University of Akron, Ohio Supreme Court, and the League of Women Voters. Miller says the goal is help voters become more informed, since they often skip voting for judicial races.

More information is available at the WKSU voter guide.