Early in-person voting is this week for the Nov. 3 elections, and a county official thinks voters at the Rogers County Election Board might like what they see.
The election board is wrapping up a significant renovation project that will help with social distancing just in time for the elections.
"It's definitely a gem and everybody in the county should be proud," said Rogers County Election Board Secretary Julie Dermody, who's relieved to know that a quick construction schedule finished in time for elections that have produced record interest in absentee voting.
Those elections include two state questions, a U.S. Senate race, a U.S. House race and, of course, a presidential race. Early in-person voting is 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Rogers County has two locations — the election board office, at 415 W. First St. in Claremore and Central Baptist Church, at 9001 N. 145th E. Ave. in Owasso.
Considering the interest in absentee voting, Dermody is expecting a crowd for early in-person voting. Rogers County had received 4,300 absentee votes through Friday. That's more than double the previous election record of 2,100, and there were still 11 days left until election day. Nearly 7,500 absentee ballots have been issued so far — more than twice the previous record of 3,200.
"We do expect lines" for early in-person voting, Dermody said. "The positive thing is that there are only two state questions. They should move pretty quick. People aren't going to have to spend a lot of time reading since there's only two questions."
Dermody said voters are encouraged to wear a mask when coming to vote, but masks are not required.
For voters at the election board, people will be able to park across First Street in the Rogers County Courthouse lot. If that is full, overflow parking is available in two places — just across Missouri Avenue from the election board or near the railroad tracks for those willing to make about a two-block walk.
When voters arrive at the renovated election board, the first thing they'll see is a new front entrance that's now compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Voters also will see new windows and sliding glass doors, which provide a no-touch entry and exit that helps reduce the spread of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have an in-door and an out-door so people won't have to cross each other's paths," Dermody said. "There will be plenty of social distancing there."
Once inside, there is a new counter with glass partitions, also helping to mitigate the spread of germs. What's not visible to the eye is the new heat-and-air system that also is expected to help reduce the spread of germs, Dermody said.
It "has air scrubbers, so it purifies the air on a regular basis," she said.
In the back of the board offices is an area that has been renovated to help organization. That area includes rows of cubbies that resemble high school lockers without doors. Each of the cubbies includes ballots, documents, a voting machine and more. There are 36 polling places, but Dermody said 50 of the cubbies were built to accommodate future growth expected in the county.
Rogers County allocated $185,000 of federal CARES Act funding to renovate the election board, according to county records. The election board also used a portion of a $46,774 grant rom the Center for Tech and Civic Life to fund the renovations.
"We're paying for (new) desks out of our grant money, so it's not taxpayer money," Dermody said.
On Monday, county workers were assembling desks and adding other finishing touches to a construction project that got done quickly — about 60 days. How did it get finished so fast?
"Lots of prayer," Dermody said. She also credited architects, Rogers County maintenance workers and others.
"Everybody coordinated together to get things done properly," she said, "and it's done well."