Inside polling place

Photos by Pete Johnson

Early voting in Franklin County began Tuesday October 6 and ends on November 2. Hours of operation are here. The Early voting location at 1700 Morse Rd is within a 20-minute drive from most everywhere within I-270 outer-belt. Based on my own experience and some friends who have voted, I was very much impressed by the professionalism and ease of voting. The Franklin County Board of Elections has taken all the necessary COVID -19 precautions. The location is large, and at every point, social distancing is greater than 6 feet, and there is plexiglass everywhere.

Voting enthusiasm is incredibly high. The location at Morse Road was formerly a Kohl's, neighbored by Sam Ash Music and a HomeBuys store that formerly was a Kroger. On the first day of voting, the line began forming at 4:30 in the morning. By the time the Board of Elections (BOE) opened the doors, the line wound all the way behind the building. Of course, voters observed social distancing and the line moved quickly, as the BOE can process 800 voters an hour. A friend of mine waited in that long line, which was a 90-minute wait.

I voted on Thursday, the third day of early voting. The line started at the entrance to the old Kroger store, but took only 40 minutes. I have observed lines half that long in mid-afternoon. The weather was great and it was a festive but serious atmosphere. Whether the lines get shorter or longer as we approach election day is unclear, as one observer who was there all three days said more people appeared voting in the afternoon of the third day than on the first day.

Once inside, I was given a green pen which is not a ballot marker, but instead a device with which you use to generate your electronic signature at the first station, where the voter presents his/her ID. The check-in person did ask if I wanted to vote on a machine or on a paper ballot. I chose to vote on the machine, not because I trust it more, but because I wanted to observe, in the event voters report issues later on. The process of choosing candidates was easy, although I recommend voters have a sample ballot, because there are 36 candidates and up to 5 issues on the ballot (which may vary depending upon precinct). Once the voter concludes, the machine prints a ballot which is then dropped off into a box on the way out, which is observed by a BOE employee or volunteer. Then, you get your “I voted” sticker.

If you have requested an absentee ballot and prefer to drop it off rather than mail it, as recommended by the Free Press staff, there are three drop boxes. One is a drive-through in the event you wish not to exit your vehicle. One is inside the office part of the building, and the third is secure but outside the building, for 24/7 access.

It was easy to acquire a Democratic sample ballot, but I did not see anyone distributing Republican sample ballots. On the first two days of voting, there was a lightly staffed Trump tent, but it had disappeared by the third day. I was told that it blew down on both the first and second day of voting.

My conclusion is that early voting is the way to go – to ensure your vote is counted. None of us know what barriers might be in place on November 3rd, but we do know that thousands of enthusiastic voters are happy to wait in line in order to have their voices heard and their vote counted.