Here we are, less than a month away from what may be one of the most electrically charged elections in decades. You may be feeling downtrodden about it all with COVID-19 still on the rampage––after all, pandemic fatigue is real. But one thing you do have control over is your right to vote, and there are many ways to do so while still protecting your health and that of those around you.
If you prefer to vote absentee this year for safety’s sake, good news: most states will let you due to the circumstances of the pandemic. While the cutoff for requesting an absentee ballot varies by state, most of them are during the last week of October. That means you still have a few weeks to request one if you are trying to remain as socially distant as possible during this time.
If you’ve already applied for an absentee ballot and it hasn’t arrived yet, some counties can check the status using BallotTrax. If yours is not included, you can check the MyVoter page for your state to check the status of your ballot. However, since people are experiencing USPS delays, the sooner you can complete your ballot and mail it, the better.
But if you’re concerned about mail-in ballots and prefer to vote in-person, you’re not alone.
While absentee ballots are a totally legitimate option, it’s understandable why you’d want to show up to the polls. (Plus, how else will you get your, “I voted!” sticker for the ‘gram?) But with a global pandemic looming, how can you vote without putting yourself or others at risk?
Here are our recommendations to make sure you stay as safe as possible when you vote in-person this year.
Vote in person safely with these simple steps
Most states are making it easier than ever to do your civic duty this year, by allowing people to vote early without needing an excuse nor having to apply for an absentee ballot first. You can just show up like you would on Election Day. This gives more opportunities to avoid bigger crowds, which we are sure to see on November 3. To learn more about your state’s early voting guidelines, check your state or local election office.
Wear a mask
We know everyone’s probably tired of hearing it, but since it still seems to be a topic of debate, let’s review: wear a face mask! We recommend you go with an FDA-registered surgical mask, which will filter out 99.2% of bacteria and particles. This will keep you safe from aerosolized COVID particles—not to mention any other viruses as we enter the flu season! Being fastidious about this not only protects you but everyone else you come in contact with. And don’t our diligent poll workers deserve that courtesy? Check out our article to learn more about why surgical masks are the safest pick on the market.
Remain six feet apart
The CDC guidelines have undergone some changes since they were first announced earlier this year. But one thing has never changed: keep a six-foot distance between yourself and others. Some newer research also claims the virus hangs in the air as well. While there’s been no official guidance on that (although the CDC did announce it and then rescind it, so do what you will with that info), you’re better off wearing an effective mask AND keeping your distance from other people while lining up to vote. Most polling locations have placed markers to help constituents space out but if you need a patriotic guideline, stay one adult bald eagle’s wingspan away from others.
Bring your hand sanitizer
If you do go out to your local polling place, you’re bound to touch the voting machines, door handles or knobs, and more. Being fastidious with a hand sanitizer means you can stay safe until you can get home and wash your hands again. Also, the type of hand sanitizer you buy matters as well. The FDA recommends you use one that is 60% alcohol-based, so be sure to check the label.
Bring your own pen & stylus
If you really want to think ahead, put a pen and a stylus in your purse or pocket. That way you won’t need to touch the ones everyone else in line with you will be touching, and when you’re done you can put them back in the bag, bring them home and sterilize as needed. If you’re polling place uses touchscreens on the voting machine and you don’t own a stylus, another option is to bring a latex glove.
Bag up your voter registration and ID
You could just use your handy sanitizer once you give your ID to a poll worker, especially if you’re lucky enough to still have a supply of disinfecting wipes. But another option is to put your identification items in a clear ziplock bag and show it to them that way. Then it doesn’t get anyone’s germs on it, and you can simply dispose of the bag when you get home.
It’s important to note that transmission of COVID by touching items is pretty low. According to the CDC, “it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” However, considering the amount of handling poll workers may be doing, it couldn’t hurt to be extra cautious.
With these simple measures, you can rest assured that voting in-person will be safe. Now get out there and make your voice heard!
*First Published: Oct 8, 2020, 9:53 am
Colette Bennett is a writer/editor who specializes in internet culture, skincare, and all things geek. Her work has appeared on CNN, HLN, Engadget, Colourlovers, and Continue Magazine. She also writes horror and sci-fi fiction for Corona Books. Her first novel is forthcoming from Rebellion Publishing in 2021.