Volunteer Jane Gylenquist sprayed down a wheelchair with disinfectant.
This happens between every use, she explained, and these wheelchairs are being used a lot.
Jefferson County’s only Primary Day polling site, the Kentucky Exposition Center, is very large space. And while officials touted its size as a win — you can accommodate lots of socially distanced voters — one election worker learned that the size could be a challenge for some voters. And she enlisted help from volunteers like Gylenquist.
“It’s been pretty steady,” Gylenquist, who works with a nonprofit that works with people who have disabilities.
She said some voters, “after getting through the parking lot, they’re already pretty exhausted. And so they’re always very grateful” for assistance.
According to the Expo Center’s floor plans, each of the two South Wings where the voting area is set up, is 129,600 square feet in size.
“The Expo Center is cavernous,” election officer Gracie Taylor said. “So normally people that don’t need a wheelchair, kind of needed a wheelchair because of the distance.”
Taylor said she noticed the problem on day one of early voting at the site.
She and some colleagues measured the distance it would take to get from the parking lot, into the lobby and to where you needed to vote.
“And it was nearly a mile,” she said.
Taylor raised the issue with county officials. But she learned the county couldn’t supply the wheelchairs, and election workers couldn’t push people in them for insurance liability issues, she said. That’s when Taylor decided to organize a cadre of volunteers and donated wheelchairs.
“All my volunteers and all the wheelchairs came from me just posting on Facebook about everything, and people sharing my posts,” Taylor said. “Even a thrift thrift store in Germantown called Fat Rabbit, they were like, we have a wheelchair.”
Each wheelchair has a sign informing voters they’re using them at their own risk.
Taylor hopes things will be different in November.
“We’re going to get this changed for next time,” she said.
Nore J. Ghibaudy, spokesperson for the Jefferson County Board of Elections, said, if such a cavernous polling site is used again, they would look at “making adjustments” to help people get around.