How did COVID-19 positive people vote on election day?

Lycoming County Coroner Charles Kiessling Jr., left, Deputy Coroner Kate Nickles, center, and Director of Voter Services Forrest Lehman, process ballots from COVID-19 individuals on election night. PHOTO PROVIDED

Processing ballots for a record-breaking presidential election in the midst of a global pandemic is no easy task, but Lycoming County Coroner Charles Kiessling Jr. was on hand to help during the chaotic vote count Tuesday evening. 

Individuals who tested positive for the virus within two weeks of the election were able to apply for an emergency absentee ballot because they couldn’t be expected to go to the polls. According to Kiessling, just over 170 homes in the county were covid-19-positive on Election Day. Of those, 14 decided to send in emergency absentee ballots. 

“We handle a lot worse things,” said Keissling, who donned PPE with his daughter and deputy coroner Kate Nickles. The ballots were placed in sealed bags and stored in the office of Voter Services until Election Day. “That way we are giving even the folks who are quarantined the chance to vote.” 

Kiessling and Nickles opened the ballots under the observation of Forrest Lehman, director of Voter Services. 

“It was probably overkill, but with everything going on I don’t think you can be too careful.” Keissling said. “The last thing we wanted was the people in voter services to get it.” 

Lycoming County continues to remain at a moderate level for COVID-19 cases, with just over 1,000 cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic. There have been 32 deaths reported, all of whom are in the elderly population in long-term nursing facilities, according to Kiessling. 


  • Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.

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