DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Tuesday more than 400 voters lined up at the Montgomery County Board of Elections before the polls even opened on the first day of early voting.
That line wound from the door through the parking garage. Voters made it through smoothly in about 20 minutes, saying that enthusiasm illustrates the importance of this election.
Montgomery County Board of Elections Director Jan Kelly says despite the line, there were no major issues Tuesday. “We were backed up in the parking lot. It took about 20 minutes to get through the line, which isn’t a great wait.”
Kelly says the process was especially smooth when factoring in coronavirus precautions. She says, “We had 60% less machines and space which voters could utilize because of spacing and COVID requirements. But everybody that was here got through.”
Kelly says everyone in line wore masks. Social distancing dots were placed throughout the building, but the huge first-day turnout was larger than expected. Kelly says, “There was a lack of separation in the parking lot. We didn’t have dots in the parking lot because of the cement out there. But we just asked people to make sure they exercise the 6-foot social distance. But everyone had masks on that I saw.”
Even with the precautions in place, many voters instead opted to drop off their absentee ballots. Rosemary Aveyard-Picker of Dayton says, “With all the pandemic stuff going on, I just decided to bring it in myself. This is safe for me.”
Kevin Moore returned his absentee ballot Tuesday. He says, “Usually we’re doing it live, in person. But this year, why take the additional chance?”
WATCH: Safety was top of mind for voters Tuesday as many skipped the lines, instead opting for the convenience of dropping off their absentee ballot. Hear what they say about the process:
More than 98,000 registered voters in Montgomery County requested absentee ballots, and some people got theirs immediately.
Pam Beatty of Oakwood says, “We submitted our request for a ballot back in July, and it arrived this morning.” She adds, “I didn’t want to go in person. I didn’t feel it was going to be safe. So I felt much more secure doing it like this.”
Many people were confident knowing their votes will be counted regardless of how they were cast.
Scott Stoney says he feels the absentee ballot is “the most secure way we have at this point. And we noticed we can track it now, so we’ll be doing that, too.”
Jan Kelly says the board is working to eliminate uncertainty, and they’re working to be ready for whatever may come. She says, “We’ve got a tent already set up out there in case it really does get busy with people dropping off their ballots. We’re prepared for many, many different scenarios and many types of voting that people have requested and feel comfortable with.”
There were no major issues Tuesday, but Kelly says they’ll keep monitoring the process to see what needs tweaking. She says the board had been planning for the first day of early voting since the march primary, increasing the number of staff to a total of about 50 in anticipation of such a high turnout. “We hired an additional 20 employees and we are hiring some more for traffic control.”