Summit County elections office flagged for defying COVID-19 standards

The Summit County Board of Elections. Photo from BOE website.

The Summit County Board of Elections has been ordered to comply with the state’s COVID-19 workplace standards after Republican employees were found to be not wearing masks or staying distant from one another.

The county’s health department investigated the office and issued an inspection report, which was obtained by the Ohio Capital Journal. The inspector listed on the report confirmed with this outlet that the investigation took place on Tuesday. 

Elections officials were not immediately available for comment.

The investigation was spurred by a live stream of an elections board meeting Tuesday morning in which some workers were seen not wearing masks. The office is located in Akron, the Summit County seat. 

“Further, the (elections) director, Mr. (Joseph) Masich, stated he will not enforce the order to have employees wear masks,” the inspection report reads. “Republican employees at the Board of Elections are refusing to wear masks in defiance of the public health order, putting citizens and voters at risk.”

Though some of the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, there remains an order in place that Ohio workers must wear a mask while on the job.

Along with some employees not wearing masks, a health inspector found the office’s cubicles are less than six feet apart. The cubicle walls “are shorter than employees while they are sitting down at their desks,” the report continues.

The report quotes a deputy elections director as saying Plexiglas was being ordered for cubicles and the front counter. The official also said the board of elections would secure more face coverings for employees to wear. 

Summit County elections officials debated the face coverings order during a meeting a week ago. Bryan Williams, a Republican member of the board of elections and the chairman of the Summit County Republican Party, said “there’s strong evidence to suggest that the face mask is counterproductive to a person’s health.”

It was asked during that May 12 meeting if everyone in the office should be required to wear a mask and also to provide one.

“I do think we should buy and offer employees masks,” Williams said, suggesting employees could choose not to wear one “if they want to exercise one of the exceptions.”

Tuesday’s inspection report concludes by stating no further action is required. 

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.