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Unacceptable behavior

Unacceptable.

That is the best way to describe any behavior that interferes with others’ right to cast their votes.

And some of the behavior that has been occurring during early in-person voting in Belmont County this month is absolutely unacceptable.

According to elections officials, some voters have refused to follow the rules and, on occasion, they have been disrespectful or even aggressive toward poll workers who are simply trying to do their duty.

As a result, the Belmont County Board of Elections held a special meeting last week and decided it was necessary to employ law enforcement to monitor conditions at the board office during early voting hours. Although a few local polling places typically have a police officer on site on Election Day, such a presence has never before been necessary at the board office.

Board Chairman Michael Shaheen said some voters casting early ballots at the office — the only location in the county where early voting takes place in Belmont County — are refusing to wear masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. In one case, Shaheen said, a person threw their ballot at a poll worker when asked to don a mask.

Some also are resisting workers’ requests that they remove or cover garments that display political messages or slogans.

Because we are in the midst of a pandemic, voters in Ohio are required to wear masks at polling locations this year. In addition, state law has long prohibited any display related to political affiliation at voting sites.

Poll workers are duty-bound to ask voters to comply with those requirements. They do not deserve to be belittled, ridiculed or threatened for doing their jobs.

According to Shaheen, no voter will be turned away. But if someone refuses to wear a mask while casting their vote, the room must be cleared, and then poll workers must clean and disinfect the entire area before other voters can be allowed to enter.

Not only does that place an additional burden on the poll workers, but it also disrupts the flow of traffic in and out of the office and causes other voters to be delayed. In fact, it might discourage some who are operating under time constraints so much that they will leave without casting their ballot.

A sheriff’s deputy is now posted at the polling site. Shaheen said that with an officer present since Thursday, there have been no additional problems at the board office.

That is a good thing, but what a shame it had to come to that.

American citizens who embrace their right to vote also should respect the right of others to do the same and play by the rules so that everyone has a fair opportunity to vote.

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