Reprinted with permission from The Republic newspaper, March 16, 2022

The bipartisan Bartholomew County Election Board has continued to prepare for the upcoming May 3 primary, setting the schedule for poll worker training and some COVID-19 safety protocols and finalizing plans to use NexusPark as an early voting and election day site.

Poll worker training will be April 4 at the former JC Penney store at NexusPark, the day before early voting starts, said Bartholomew County Clerk Shari Lentz. Local election officials expect to have five poll workers each day at both early voting locations, including NexusPark.

Lentz said she does not anticipate a shortage of poll workers.

“I’ve talked to both parties, and they seem to be doing really well as far as being able to secure the workers,” Lentz said. “I don’t anticipate a shortage. A lot of our poll workers come back every election, so we’re very blessed to have that happen.”

Besides the training, the board has decided that poll workers will be “encouraged” to wear masks but not required to do so at this time, Lentz said. Masks will also be optional for voters.

However, the board did not discuss social distancing protocols, but may do so during its next meeting, said Lentz.

“We will encourage our poll workers if they like to wear masks to do so,” Lentz said. “We will have the supplies available for them.”

“We will also have be monitoring the situation,” Lentz added. “It’s a fluid situation for sure, so we’ll be making sure that we’re following (federal) guidelines as far as protecting the public when it comes to voting as we begin here in April.”

The update from local election officials came nearly a month after the board set in-person voting locations for the primary.

In-person early voting will be at the former JC Penney store at NexusPark in Columbus weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April 5 to 29 and May 2 from 8 a.m. to noon, Lentz said.

Early voting also will be held at the former JC Penney store 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. the two Saturdays prior to election day — April 23 and April 30. No voting will be held at the Bartholomew County Courthouse.

Early-in person voting will also be held 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 23 and 30 in the Bartholomew County Council chambers in the Bartholomew County Governmental Office Building, 440 Third St., in downtown Columbus.

Also on Monday, the board signed a memorandum of understanding with the city of Columbus, officially securing NexusPark as an early voting and election day site for the primary, Lentz said.

NexusPark, formerly known as FairOaks Mall, proved to be a popular early voting location in the 2020 general election.

A record-shattering 20,843 voters turned out at the former Carson’s store for early in-person voting for the Nov. 3, 2020 presidential election.