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Warren At The Polls

Pandemic restrictions not a major issue for voters

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Voters (from left) Barb Harrington, Sandra Johnson, and Rick Johnson, walk out of Warren County Courthouse after voting in the primary election on Tuesday. Aside from having to wear masks throughout the process, they said their voting experience was positive and not exceptional.

The pandemic primary had the potential to be a memorable one.

Warren County was using machines that were new in the past election.

Social distancing rules were in effect.

Masks had to be worn.

And mail-in voting was an option for the first time.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Richard and Naomi House of Warren walk out of Warren County Courthouse after voting in the primary election on Tuesday.

But, other than voting in early June rather than May, voters in Warren County reported little significant inconvenience from COVID-19.

Richard House of Warren said wearing his mask was frustrating, but voting in it was no different than doing anything else. “The machine worked Okay,” House said. “Fortunately, there’s not the crowds here.”

Kathy and Bill Bubash of Columbus voted Tuesday morning. “It was easy,” Kathy said. “It took 10 minutes.”

Bill gave the experience top marks. “We went in, voted, it spit out the paper, we put it in the box, and off we went,” he said. “No line.”

At Warren Central, poll workers Karen Black and Sally Eaton were also having a good Election Day experience.

“People have been very obliging” about wearing masks, Eaton said.

There weren’t any lines there.

Black jokingly referred a to a time when three voters came in at once as a “rush.”

Eaton said one apparent impact of the pandemic was that few people brought their children to the polls with them.

R.J. Sweet of Warren was pleased with his trip to the polls.

“Good. Easy,” Sweet said. “They checked my ID, which I appreciate.”

He didn’t have to compete with a line, but that’s not unusual, particularly in a primary election. “This place is usually spaced out pretty well.”

As for the mask, the answer was simple. “I have to wear it,” he said.

“The machine was easy to use,” Rick Johnson of Warren said. And the distancing was not an issue because there were no voters in line ahead of him.

“It was pretty simple,” Barb Harrington of Warren said. “I enjoyed the experience. The machines were perfect. They cleaned it before I voted.”

Not everyone turning in ballots at the courthouse on Tuesday used a machine at Warren Central.

Randy Britton of Warren dropped off his mail-in ballot in person.

“With everything that was going on, I felt it would be the best way to vote,” Britton said.

He said he had some concerns about security. “I take voting very seriously,” he said.

Still, the mail-in voting process was a good experience. “I was able to take my time… Google the candidates and learn more about them,” he said. “I like the mail-in.”

He’s not the only one.

According to Warren County director of elections and voter registrar Lisa Rivett, more than one-tenth of the county’s registered voters mailed in their ballots — either absentee or mail-in voting.

“We put out 3,818 ballots,” Rivett said. “We’ve gotten 3,060 back.”

That was shortly after 5 p.m. The deadline to drop off mail-in ballots was the same as the poll closing time — 8 p.m.

Of the hundreds that were sent ballots and didn’t return them, “a lot of people that didn’t return them voted at the polls,” she said.

There were notes on the lines next to voters’ names who received mail-in or absentee ballots. If a voter showed up at the polls and had such a note by their name, workers would allow that person to vote by provisional ballot.

In cases where a voted mailed in a ballot and voted by provisional ballot, the one that arrived in her office first was counted, Rivett said.

There are 30,486 registered voters in the county. Of those, the 9,797 Democrats and 15,899 Republicans were able to vote on Tuesday. The state’s primary is only open to the two major parties unless there is a referendum question on the ballot. All of the 4,790 county voters who are registered with some other party or as independents were not eligible to vote.

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