Ohio says voters won't be turned away from polling places if they refuse mask

An Ohio official announced Wednesday that voters won’t be turned away from polling places if they refuse to wear a mask, even with the state’s mask mandate amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said during a press briefing that the state will encourage but not require people to wear face coverings to vote in person.

"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’s going to be turned away. Everyone will have access to the polling locations, but all voters should of course wear a mask as well."


All poll workers will be mandated to wear face coverings while working at in-person polling locations, he said.

The Ohio official compared wearing a mask to avoiding picking one’s nose, as part of good manners. 

"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 choose to — we're going to let you cast your ballot and send you on your way," LaRose said.

LaRose assured voters the election will take place on Nov. 3 even if the pandemic worsens in the state beforehand, saying officials cannot change the date of the general election like they can with the primary election. 

He also said all registered voters will receive an application to get an absentee ballot in the mail and highlighted the state is offering 28 days for early voting.  

The Ohio election official's comments come as states across the country are weighing public safety in their plans for the general election in November.  At least 76 percent of voters will be able to vote by mail without an excuse, more than in any previous election, a New York Times analysis found.

Several states during the primary elections used mail-in voting. Lawmakers have forecasted potential obstacles for the general election amid the coronavirus pandemic, including long lines and delays in results as several polling volunteers will be opting out due to COVID-19 concerns. 

Ohio was one of the states that postponed its election amid the public health crisis in the spring.