Ohio poll workers won’t turn away voters who don’t wear a mask

Election officials in Ohio are urging face masks at the polls in November’s upcoming presidential election, but they are not making them a requirement.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose assured the public that no person would be turned away from the polls, regardless of whether they are wearing a face covering.

“If a voter chooses not to wear a mask, we’re going to offer them an alternative to maybe vote outside — curbside, which has been part of Ohio’s voting process for a long time,” LaRose said. “If they choose not to do that, of course nobody is going to be turned away. Everyone will have access to the polling locations, but all voters should of course wear a mask as well.”

Many states have been forced to grapple with questions about public safety and health as voters go to the polls during the coronavirus pandemic. Multiple states have held primary elections that resulted in long lines and delayed results as volunteers — usually the elderly, who are more at risk from the virus — have opted out of serving as poll workers, forcing polling stations to close. Many states have moved toward increased mail-in voting in order to decrease the risk the coronavirus spreading during in-person voting.

Ohio was one of the states that struggled with handling a springtime primary election during the initial onset of the pandemic. The state postponed its March primary after the state’s health director declared a public health emergency and allowed Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, to move the election.

The state legislature eventually passed a law extending mail-in voting to April 28.

Ohio has a statewide mask mandate, which orders all residents to wear a mask in public.

LaRose said wearing a mask is just good manners and compared it to picking one’s nose.

“We don’t need to have police out there telling people not to pick their nose. It’s just gross. It’s rude. It’s bad manners. We know not to do it. Walking into a polling place without wearing a mask is rude, it’s bad manners. You should not be doing it, but if you chose to — we’re going to let you cast your ballot and send you on your way,” LaRose said.

LaRose added, “The poll workers are not there to enforce mask requirements. They can’t. Nobody can be turned away.”