The United States presidential election is approaching and the world is in the middle of a pandemic. Because of COVID-19, voting by mail or dropping your mail-in ballot off at a polling station is highly encouraged. Come Election Day, the goal is to have minimal crowds at polling stations, but some people love the act of voting in person. People may not trust the mail or they feel a certain pride after voting at a polling station. If you feel the need to cast your ballot in person, there are things you can do to stay safe and protected.
It’s important to exercise your democratic right to vote, as the people dictate which direction the country’s healthcare system, economy, foreign and domestic policies, and more will go. Voting in person this year will depend on a variety of factors, including personal risk, the state of COVID-19 in your state/region, and your ability to enforce practices that keep you safe at the polling station.
Assess The Risks
You need to evaluate whether it is safe for you to head to a polling station to cast your vote this year. According to epidemiologists, it’s best to establish how the virus is spreading in your area before you vote in person. If it’s spreading like wildfire, it may not be the best idea to head to a polling station. After determining the daily cases in your area, you have to consider your personal health.
Do you have a pre-existing health condition? Are you a senior citizen? Do you even feel safe to wait around people at the polling station (because voting in person will definitely take longer this year)? It ultimately comes down to how comfortable and confident you are in your health and your ability to assess the COVID-19 situation in your area. All of that said, Dr. Annabelle de St. Maurice, MPH, says that voting at your local polling place is relatively low risk.
Voting In Person
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines for polling stations during COVID-19. These guidelines adhere to similar recommendations for restaurants, gyms, salons, and other essential businesses. Polling stations will have to regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces, require that masks be warn, and ensure that social distancing is enforced. The act of voting is quite safe because you are alone in the booth and it doesn’t take that long. It’s really the waiting around with a lot of people around you that is what you need to consider.
Contact Your Local Polling Center
There are questions to ask your polling center if you are adamant about voting in person. If you have to wait in line, will you be waiting outside or inside? If you are waiting inside, how is the ventilation in the polling center and will social distancing and mask wearing be enforced? Are there plexiglass barriers between voting stations? Will poll workers be wearing masks, face shields, or gloves? Will poll workers sanitize stations between each use? These are the questions that health experts recommend you ask if you want to be as safe as possible while voting in person.
Unless you require assistance, experts say that you should go to the polling station by yourself. There’s no need to bring children or other non-voting family members with you. You are the one who is voting and you should remain as separate from people as possible. Lastly, come prepared with a protective mask, hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes, and your own pen if you have to fill out paperwork. Take your health as seriously as you take voting and you’ll have a safe in-person voting experience.