CINCINNATI — As early voting polls prepare to open Tuesday for in-person voting, Hamilton County has rented a new space to manage crowds and keep voters safe.
The new voting center is fully set up with a maze of red, white and blue cubicles spaced six feet apart, shields surrounding check-in desks and masked workers all in anticipation of an expected 50,000 people voting before Election Day.
"We feel that we have prepared well, and we're well-equipped to handle those that choose to vote early in-person," said Sherry Poland, with the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
The county has reserved nearly 100 parking spaces outside the facility for voters, with a border space marked out for politicking. Inside, floor stickers mark how to spread out while in line.
Between check-in and voting, everything touched by a voter will be wiped down, with many poll workers filling the job of designated cleaner, while others guide voters in one door and out another.
"If there's a particular voter who is feeling uncomfortable, just can't stand that long and just doesn't feel safe, just let us know and we will do everything we can to get them in here," said Gwen McFarland, chair of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
For voters who need it, there's a closet full of personal protective gear purchased through grants and donations, and voters are welcome to bring their own wipes and pens to use if they'd prefer.
After a packed April primary, staff said they're working to ensure the redesigned layout and extra cleaning efforts will prevent traffic jams and overcrowding at the polls this time.
"We hope that we can keep all the voters safe and everybody can choose which way they like to vote," said Sally Krissel, deputy director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
Around 160,000 absentee ballots are expected to go into the mail as early voting begins, but staff said voters should expect the shortest lines over the next two weeks. Historically, crowds have been larger the closer it gets to election day.