PAINESVILLE, Ohio — The 2020 presidential election is shattering records across the country. Millions of voters are heading to the polls to cast their votes early. But, voting in the middle of a pandemic is concerning for many election and health officials.
In Lake County, the director for the Board of Election said he's witnessed countless community members and businesses step up to make sure the election is protected and conducted safely.
"We're seeing a positive response," Ross McDonald said. "We think that probably 60 to 65% of the overall vote will have been done by way of absentee voting."
McDonald, the director of the Lake County BOE since 2018, said it's critically important for voters to follow safety protocols at their polling location put into place by election officials to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
"When we talk about wearing a mask, we have to think about others, especially our workforce. I said to those at home, we would say, 'Look, you know, if your grandmother asked you to put on a mask, would you do it?'" he said.
During early voting and on Election Day, voters in Lake County will be asked to wear a mask, stand socially distanced from other voters, sanitize their hands, use a disposable stylus on the electronic voting machines and follow the one-way paths throughout the building. Ross said high-touch areas will be cleaned and sanitized often and poll workers will be masked behind plexiglass barriers.
In order to comply with mandates from the state of Ohio, voters will be asked to stand on floor markers to ensure social distancing. Ross said the 1,400 markers, or stickers, were all donated by Mentor's Avery Dennison.
"The stickers themselves range it anywhere between $5 and $12 apiece. So, calculated that saved us about $15,000-$16,000, which was what we were able to use that that funding for other critical needs, such as temporary employee payroll, which is at an all-time high due to the early voting," Ross said.
Ross said Lakeland Community College also stepped up to donate plexiglass barriers and a laptop for the BOE and other polling locations.
"It's been very positive to see private sector, public sector colleges and universities stepping up to donate their resources to the election process this year," he said.
So far, poll workers said the feedback from voters has been positive despite a politically charged climate.
"If anything, we're receiving thank you's from our voters. The positivity has been, I think, at an all-time high," Ross said. "People feel very positive after they're done voting. They feel like they accomplished something, and we're happy to see that people are using that right to vote that so many died to protect so many, you know, marched in the street to expand."
Early voting will continue at all Ohio County Board of Elections offices through Monday at 2 p.m.