ROCHESTER, N.Y. – What has become an Election Day ritual in Rochester, New York, will look different this year.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, people are welcome to pay tribute to Susan B. Anthony at her gravesite, as long as proper social distancing measure are kept.
But in a departure, visitors won’t be able to place their “I Voted” stickers directly on the famed suffragist’s headstone.
During a springtime restoration project, it became clear that the fragile marble marker had sustained damage from a combination of adhesive residue and the solvents and methods needed to remove it, Patricia Corcoran, president of nonprofit Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery, wrote in an email.
The nonprofit organization's main mission, she said, is historic preservation of the cemetery, “so above all we wanted to protect this iconic gravesite.”
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As a result, the group had clear plastic sleeves made for Anthony’s headstone and that of her sister, Mary S. Anthony, for use during election season, and people can put their "I Voted" stickers on the sleeves.
On Friday, Justin Roj, communications director for the city of Rochester, which owns the cemetery, said the plan was to have the headstones covered by Nov. 3. But the sleeves already were there by Saturday, the first day of in-person early voting, and quickly attracted stickers.
“We have a couple of (sleeves) and can take one off and put a new one on as they fill up with stickers,” Roj said.
The form-fitting covers likely will stay put until a couple of days after the election, he said.
Visitors also will be able to place "I Voted" stickers on an oversized thank-you card to Anthony at the gravesite.
On Election Day 2016, as many as 12,000 people made the trek to Anthony’s final resting place to honor the work she did to win women the right to vote, and to mark the first time people could cast a vote for a female major-party presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. That’s when the sticker trend really picked up steam, Corcoran said.
On the one hand, it can be seen as a patriotic gesture, she said. But in addition to harming the headstone, “many people considered this to be a desecration of a family gravestone, because a gravestone is private property.”
Roj said the city doesn’t know what sort of crowds to expect at the cemetery on Nov. 3. Despite the pandemic, however, a combination of large voter registration numbers, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and the 200th anniversary of Anthony’s birth could all be motivating factors. Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, is the first woman of color to be nominated for national office by a major party and only the fourth woman in U.S. history to be chosen for a presidential ticket.
“We’re preparing to accommodate a crowd, whatever size it ends up being,” Roj said.
"Susan B. Anthony has admirers from all over the world, and her gravesite has become a shrine with hundreds of people visiting every week," Corcoran said. "Thanks to our painstaking stewardship, hopefully this area of the cemetery will remain pristine, and her family gravestones will be protected for generations to come."
Follow reporter Marcia Greenwood on Twitter @MarciaGreenwood.
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This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Susan B. Anthony’s headstone gets plastic cover for 'I Voted' stickers