As of Oct. 24, the Stark County Courthouse is closed to the public with the exception of in-person services provided by appointment only after a worker tested positive for COVID-19.
"Someone in the courthouse came down with the virus, so we decided to close the courthouse but for appointment only," said Pete Kuntz, Stark County Commission chairman. "We need to protect our workers and our election workers. That is our main concern right now, to get through this election."
Services will still be provided via appointment, phone or email.
The statement on the county's website reads, "In an effort to protect the health and safety of all courthouse employees, including election workers and the public, by order of the Chairman of the Stark County Commission, the doors of the county courthouse are closed to the public effective immediately until further notice."
Citizens of Stark County had speculated on social media about the closure just after the announcement, as the courthouse was also closed during the primary election in June, a decision which faced backlash from the community and led to a lawsuit.
"We called it a couple months ago that they would close down the courthouse at election time," wrote user Kari Lynn.
Lynn started the social media group Stark County ND Insider to keep the public up to date with the happenings in the county government.
Many people in the group expressed distrust of the county commission and its decisions, especially regarding the election.
"Someone should be checking the garbage bins outside the courthouse," wrote user Brenda Holt.
Stark County's courthouse isn't the only one to have a positive COVID case or to be closed to the public.
Minot's municipal courthouse is also closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, and the Oliver County courthouse was closed Oct. 15 due to a positive COVID case.
Voters in Stark County may continue early voting Oct. 19-31 at the Prairie Hills Mall, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Absentee ballots can be dropped off in the Stark County Courthouse drop box, located in the north parking lot and must be dropped off by November 2, by 5 p.m. MST.
The closure of the courthouse isn't expected to interfere with the election as the general election polling centers will be at Prairie Hills Mall, Biesiot Activities Center, Richardton City Hall and Belfield City Hall.
For more information on elections, visit starkcountynd.gov.