Karla Herron has been involved in elections in Ohio for almost 20 years – but she says she’s never experienced anything like the past few days.
Despite the chaos and confusion, the director of the Delaware County Board of Elections said, her team was ready had voting proceeded as scheduled March 17 – and it has taken the necessary steps to both preserve the integrity of votes already cast and prepare for the continuation of voting, in whatever form that ultimately takes.
“I’m short on sleep, but I get a little emotional thinking about it,” Herron joked as she talked about the preparedness of her staff and team of polling site managers and volunteers.
The decision to cancel the election was made late March 16 by Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton and allowed early March 17 by the Ohio Supreme Court
The weekend before Election Day, the board heard from about 400 of its workers – many of whom are older and fall into the higher-risk demographics for COVID-19 coronavirus – that they had chosen to stay home, Herron said.
A two-day push to find as many replacements as possible produced solid results, Herron said, and her office proceeded throughout the day March 16 as though the election would be held.
“We had so many people in this county calling us and saying, ‘We’re young and healthy and we’re here for you,’ ” Herron said. “We were in training when we began to hear rumors on Monday afternoon.
“Some poll locations were already set up. There comes a point where it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle,” she said.
Herron said she and her staff continued to wait for official word, which came, she said, mid-evening March 16 – that the election would not be held.
That information was countered about an hour later, just as board of elections staff had finished contacting its poll workers.
“We were obviously still in the office, so we made another round of calls,” Herron said.
When the final announcement was made that the election would be delayed following Acton’s order, Herron and her staff worked through the night to assure notices were posted at all county polling locations.
“There was a lot of confusion,” Herron said. “To be clear, I’m not faulting anyone or questioning any decision that was made.”
Moving forward, many questions remain to be answered, Herron said.
As the state works to confirm a new election date of June 2, Herron said she’s been told that the state expects lawsuits to be filed that could impact the election.
“We’re in a holding pattern,” she said. “We’re not sure about whether equipment will need to be reprogrammed, and we’ve been told to continue to receive applications for absentee ballots.”
Meanwhile, Herron said, her office has taken every step to ensure that ballots already cast are secure and segregated from any subsequent voting that may occur, and is keeping a clear delineation between absentee ballots received and those that may still arrive.
“We’re keeping everything separate to make sure we safeguard this election and ensure a clear line of demarcation,” Herron said.
Herron said she will take her cues moving forward from the Ohio Secretary of State. She also said her staff is ready regardless of the decisions made.