Home City Required masks and more: How the Athens County Board of Elections is preparing for an election like no other

Required masks and more: How the Athens County Board of Elections is preparing for an election like no other

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Athens County Board of Elections. File Photo by Morgan McCarthy.

It’s going to be an election like no other this year.

Debbie Quivey, Athens County Board of Elections director, said Nov. 3 will be the most important election in her career.

“I’ve been here 29 years and it’s going to be the biggest election I’ve ever seen — definitely going to be the most complicated we’ve ever dealt with,” Quivey said.

Those complications come from the coronavirus pandemic and increased concerns about mail-in voting fraud — an unsourced sentiment often stated by President Donald Trump.

Quivey said she has faith in the Ohio election system and full confidence in the machines and processes directed by Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

“I don’t see the fraud part of it. Call me optimistic,” Quivey said.

In Athens County as of Sept. 10, 1,500 more voters have registered for vote by mail for the upcoming election than the number that voted absentee in the 2016 presidential election, Quivey said. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 5, and the deadline to request a ballot by mail is Oct. 31, 2020.

The Athens County BOE has always maintained a strong relationship with the local post office, according to Quivey, and she doesn’t expect any trouble with vote-by-mail in Athens.

Quivey said she cannot speak for any county other than Athens, however, and adding more people to the equation can increase the risk of error.

“When you throw humans into a situation, that’s where the error happens,” Quivey said.

Quivey asked voters to be patient with one another and the poll workers on Election Day.

“Athens County is a good county. We don’t want any problems; we don’t want to be in the headlines,” Quivey said.

Here are some of the other topics discussed with Quivey:

Masks required

Quivey didn’t mince her words: masks are required to vote at a polling location, as per the secretary of state’s orders.

However, poll workers will not refuse anyone not wearing a mask the right to vote, Quivey said. Non-mask-compliant voters will be given two options: vote in an isolated area at the polling location or in a drive-through.

Quivey said the Athens Sheriff’s Office will be on standby if any voter causes a scene while refusing to wear a mask, instances of which are widely documented on social media.

“Absolutely you have the right to vote, but there are rules,” Quivey said. “You have to follow the rules.”

Demonstrations

Quivey and Athens Sheriff Rodney Smith have also discussed potential demonstrations on Election Day, Quivey said.

She determined demonstrators must stand 100 feet away from the polling area, marked by cones. Physical harassment or preventing voters from accessing the polls will also not be tolerated.

The sheriff’s office will have deputies on standby in the event of rule violations.

Safety precautions

Quivey said each polling location will be a safe place to vote. 

Each poll worker will be provided a face mask and face shield, courtesy of the Athens City/County Health Department. The Athens BOE has secured a Columbus-based PPE supplier who has made sure they will have adequate sanitary supply for election day, Quivey said.

She also said there will be poll workers dedicated to cleaning the locations.

Voting locations

Quivey recommended student voters consider voting at Baker Center as opposed to early voting. Although students tend to like early voting, social distancing requirements at the Court Street BOE locations may make large volumes of early voters challenging, Quivey said. 

Quivey said Athens County was permitted to have two mail-in ballot drop boxes, whereas most counties are only allowed a single drop box — due to a technicality.

LaRose directed boards of elections statewide to place a drop box outside their entrances. The Athens BOE has two entrances, allowing them to place two boxes.

Quivey added that next week, the board will be voting on whether to move the polling location typically at the First Presbyterian Church on Court Street to Baker Center to accommodate social distancing.

Poll workers 

Athens County has fulfilled — and exceeded — their target goal for poll workers, Quivey said. Ohio at large, on the other hand, still needs 35,000 poll workers, LaRose said at a press conference Monday.

Quivey said the entire Athens community has stepped up to the challenge of recruiting workers. Young people as well as old people are volunteering to work on Election Day.

Still, she said, the Athens BOE will not turn away volunteers and is always looking for more.

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