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Government & Politics
Election Protection is WKSU’s community information initiative focused on access, policy and community resources around voting this November.

Voter Advocates See a Future for Curbside Voting

poll workers assist with curbside voting
Sarah Taylor
/
WKSU
At North High School in Akron, poll worker Mary Olesky and voting location manager Josh Schaffer provide curbside voting to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Schaffer says in 15 years of working polls, this is the first time he'd ever done this.

Since the general election, officials are predicting absentee voting will become more popular. But voter education advocates say elections officials need to educate voters about another option: curbside voting.

Curbside voting has always been available to Ohio voters. But it became more visible during the pandemic. However League of Women Voters of Ohio director Jen Miller says few voters know how to ask for it. That showed during the month ballots were cast.

“We were getting questions on curbside voting from early voting to Election Day. Some polling locations and early vote centers had well-marked parking spots and signage. But at other locations, voters literally didn’t know how to access the curbside voting whatsoever,” Miller said.

The process starts at the polls, when the voter or a surrogate requests the option. From there, poll workers check the voter’s registration and address and write both on a blank sheet. Two poll workers, one from each political party, take the sheet out to verify the name and address and check the voter’s identification. The voter signs the document, and the workers carry it back to the polls to verify the signature. Once that’s done, the workers carry a paper ballot back to the voter and wait until the ballot is completed and placed in a sealed envelope. The workers carry the envelope back inside so the ballot can be processed.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose says boards of elections must offer curbside voting to any voter who is physically unable to, or concerned about, entering a polling location. But they aren’t required to have signs explaining, say, how to contact poll workers to cast a curbside ballot. Miller said missing instructions caused confusion for voters.

“I think that boards of elections knew the protocols and could offer curbside voting, but that didn’t mean they were looking at it from the perspective of the voter,” she said.

The Stark County Board of Elections Administrative Assistant Travis Secrest said local health departments touted the option as a safe way to vote. To meet the anticipated demand, the board of elections set aside parking spots at all 115 polling locations.

“There was reserved parking places with a sign and a phone number to call in. You did not have to leave your car to notify poll workers that you were in need of curbside service,” he said.

Steps for Curbside Voting

  • Voter or a surrogate requests the option.
  • From there, poll workers check the voter’s registration and address and write both on a blank sheet.
  • Two poll workers , one from each political party, take the sheet out to verify the name and address and check the voter’s identification.
  • The voter signs the document, and the workers carry it back to polls to verify the signature.
  • The workers carry a paper ballot back to the voter and wait until the ballot is completed and placed in a sealed envelope.
  • The workers carry the envelope back inside so the ballot can be processed.

Each poll also had extra workers to handle curbside requests, and everyone was trained in the procedure and on keeping safe when offering the service, Secrest said.

In the past, people would use curbside usually for mobility issues. But we did add the fact that somebody might be using curbside because they were either COVID positive or under a quarantine order because of exposure to somebody had tested positive. We also added a lot of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to the polling locations as well," he said.

Secrest and Lewis both believe more folks will request curbside voting from now on. Lewis thinks it will be attractive to older Ohioans, now that they know about it. That’s why she wants boards of elections to display instructions on their websites and make signage a regular practice.