Secretary of State announces more polls to be relocated amid COVID-19 fears

By Jake Zuckerman

Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced plans Tuesday to relocate at least 125 polling locations just seven days before primary voting begins, a number that has swelled as a result of mounting COVID-19 related concerns.

At a press conference, LaRose said he could not immediately say how many voters are among those assigned to those locations. A spokeswoman said county boards will determine whether affected voters are notified of the change via mail.

On social media after the event, his office increased the figure to 128. The 128 locations were originally planned at senior residential facilities and nursing homes. Officials shifted plans to mitigate risk for the elderly, a more vulnerable population to the disease.

While state officials have acknowledged the likelihood of detecting the novel coronavirus in Ohio, LaRose said the eight days’ notice (counting the governor breaking the news Monday) would be enough.

LaRose urged Ohioans to vote early and use his office’s new “corona facts” website for updated poll locations. 

“I think with a lot of these things, we don’t want to overreact — we want to react smartly. We made a decision in the right timing that the changes can be made,” he said. “They’ll have to move fast, but there is time.”

Later in the evening Tuesday, LaRose’s office posted a list of all the polls set for relocation.

Earlier in the day, the “corona facts” website still listed some Ohio nursing homes as being polling locations. In one example in Erie County, near Cedar Point, a search guided certain voters to a hospice location as their polling place. 

A LaRose spokeswoman said the search function was still being updated and referred a reporter to a notice on the “corona facts” page: “Note that counties will be updating this information throughout the week, so be sure to review your location as close to Election Day as possible.”

LaRose has repeatedly emphasized in recent weeks that Ohioans should consider voting early or voting by mail to avoid transmission of the virus.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday that about 75 polling locations set for senior residential facilities would have to be moved. He also said polls slated to occupy certain schools would need to be moved as well.

Underscoring the fluid nature of the outbreak, LaRose increased the number of locations to 128 and scrapped plans to change polls set for schools, calling it “impractical.”

This story was updated Tuesday morning to clarify county boards of election will determine whether affected voters are notified via mail. 

Jake Zuckerman
Jake Zuckerman is a statehouse reporter. He spent three years chronicling the West Virginia Legislature for The Charleston Gazette-Mail after covering cops and courts for The Northern Virginia Daily.
Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.