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Oxford preparing for unprecedented election

<p>First time and experienced voters share similar concerns about the upcoming presidental election. </p>

First time and experienced voters share similar concerns about the upcoming presidental election.

In the face of a pandemic, the Butler County Board of Elections and local political organizations have both been working to allow Oxford residents to vote as safely and efficiently as possible this coming November. 

For the upcoming election, there are three ways to cast a ballot: One can vote in-person on election day, in-person early at the board of elections or through the mail by absentee ballot. Board of Elections Deputy Director Eric Corbin said they have seen a massive increase in the amount of absentee ballots this year, but he does not have concerns over the safety of absentee voting. 

"We've had this mail-in system for a long time,” Corbin said. “We've been working with it, and we've worked out the kinks. This year we're scaling up from 10% to a much higher percent of mail, but we already have the process in place."

Along with this, the board is still having in-person voting and will be asking voters to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines. While Corbin said the board of elections lost many poll workers due to the pandemic, it has also gained some due to active recruiting. 

"We have recruited more people at this point in time than we ever have before, but that's also because we started earlier," Corbin said. "Of course, you can imagine the population of poll workers and the population of people who are susceptible to COVID, in a Venn diagram, would overlap quite a bit, so we've definitely lost some poll workers that we've normally used, but we've also had a lot of poll workers step up and sign up to do this for the first time."

Because of this concern, Corbin said some polling locations in Fairfield and Monroe – located in nursing homes and senior living facilities – had to be changed, but all of the locations in Oxford will stay the same as they were during primaries. Voters can find their location on the Butler County Board of Elections' website

To ensure the safety of both voters and poll workers, Corbin said all poll workers will be wearing masks, and they are asking for voters to bring their own masks with them. If they're unable to bring one, there will be masks at polling locations. 

"We're strongly encouraging that all voters coming into the polling location take into account the people that are in the location with them – the poll workers as well as the other voters – and please wear a mask," Corbin said. "We're going to provide additional masks for voters who don't have one or who forget one or, for whatever reason, come to the polling location without one. We will not turn them away [if they don't have a mask]."

Taylor Armstrong, Miami University College Republicans (CRs) chairman, said he expects voters to be able to follow social distancing guidelines during voting and doesn't expect it to pose any danger. 

"If people are able to peacefully protest, [and if] people are able to wear a mask in public to go to work or to open their business, if they're able to do all these things with the current regulations and guidelines that we have to follow to keep us safe, there should be no argument against having in-person voting," Armstrong said. 

Both CRs and Miami University College Democrats (Dems) have been meeting online to encourage students to register to vote, and Dems has been hosting local candidates as speakers during its meetings. 

Omar Elghazawi, Dems’ head of communications, voiced his concerns for absentee voting due to the massive influx of voters and recommended they mail their requests as soon as possible. 

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"I can definitely see issues arising,” Elghazawi said. “I think the main issue is that we've seen so far, with [mail]boxes being removed and funding being taken away from the United States Postal Service, those are big challenges that have come in. That's why we're also encouraging our voters to [vote] as soon as possible to ensure they have the best chance of their vote actually getting in and being counted."

The same concern of timeliness was voiced by Armstrong, who noted the situation in New York, which had 10 times the expected amount of absentee ballots, according to a New York Times report, with around 400,000 of those ballots being sent back.

"Not only do our elections deserve to be fair, they deserve to be timely so that we're not waiting days and weeks to find out the results of elections," Armstrong said. "I think some states who tried the whole mail-in voting ballot thing for their primaries earlier in the summer and late spring, some of them like New York are still chugging out election results since it's so much. It's just chaotic."

Despite this, Corbin said he does not have any concerns with absentee voting in Ohio since the system has been in place for years. He encourages voters to check their registration, which can be done at voteohio.gov.

Elghazawi said he did not have concerns over the safety of absentee voting, but he does expect it to have some delays. 

"At the end of the day, I don't think we're going to get a result right away on Nov. 3 like we have on previous election nights," Elghazawi said. "I genuinely don't think we'll get final presidential results and other results for at least a few days, if not more." 

Regardless of voting method or party, Elghazawi said, encouraging and helping people vote is an important part of any political organization.

"I think that, as the biggest political organizations on campus, regardless of political affiliation, it's our duty to make sure that students know how and where to vote, especially if they're voting on campus, and providing and forwarding them towards resources that allow them to vote as easily and as safely as possible," he said. "Even if they're not a Democrat, or even if they're not a Republican, making sure that they know where to go to vote because voting, as a student, is probably one of the most important things that we can do as students at Miami or anywhere.”

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Nick Fellaris is the chairman of Miami University College Republicans. Taylor Armstrong is the current chairman of CRs, and the story has been updated to reflect that.

robbinha@miami.edu 

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