Ohio election facilities cannot bar maskless voters from casting their ballots, Governor Mike DeWine said on Thursday, even in light of a statewide mandate requiring masks in public places.
Poll workers and elections officials will have to accommodate voters who refuse to wear a face covering, with voters being offered masks onsite and curbside voting options for those who refuse.
“We get into other very serious constitutional issues if we would say we would deny you the right to vote if you did not have a mask,” DeWine said at a press briefing.
DeWine’s announcement confirms the position of Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who previously said maskless voters maintain a constitutional right to cast their ballot.
LaRose told Fox News earlier this month that all county election facilities would have hand sanitizer, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies on hand. Individuals who refuse to wear a mask will be kept six feet from others and surfaces they touch will be disinfected after use.
The governor encouraged mask-wearing for the sake of the state’s more than 50,000 poll workers who will be “exposed to a lot, a lot of people.”
“It’s just not right to walk in there and not have a mask on,” he said.
The news come as the state sees a surge in coronavirus cases only weeks before the November 3 election. Ohio has recorded more than 2,100 COVID-19 cases on both Thursday and Friday and has seen a statewide test positivity rate of 4.4 percent over the past week.
Ohio, which has 18 electoral votes at stake in the presidential election, is a “toss-up” according to forecasting by FiveThirtyEight, the website run by polling analyst Nate Silver.