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The 2020 American presidential election is set to take place on November 3, but early voting has already begun in most states. Given the current pandemic, voter safety should be a high priority, both on an individual and community level.
All poll workers should be regularly tested for COVID 19, and required to self isolate following current CDC guidelines should they come into contact with anyone who has contracted COVID 19, or if they start to exhibit symptoms. This means that polling stations should be adequately staffed to cover sick or infected volunteers.
Poll workers should have easy and frequent access to necessary cleaning and protective materials including a place to wash hands, hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol and face masks or shields. They should also be instructed to wash their hands frequently, especially before and after their shifts, after sanitizing voting equipment, and after coughing or sneezing.
Voting facilities should have easily accessible hand sanitizer for voters and poll workers alike. Where possible, shared items like ballot activation cards and pens should be replaced with single-use items or sanitized between each use. Voting equipment should be sanitized according to manufacturer instructions.
There should also be precautions set in place for those with disabilities, such as clear face shields to aid deaf or hard of hearing voters with communication and single-use or frequently sanitized earbuds for visually impaired voters. Instructions and safety tip sheets, available through the CDC’s website, should be posted in obvious and clearly visible locations around the voting facility.
For voters themselves, it is advised that individuals wear masks when in close quarters with other people, specifically within voting facilities and in lines to vote. It’s important to note that children under two years old and those unable to put on or remove masks independently should not wearing face coverings, and should instead maintain adequate social distance, or ideally avoid attending in-person voting.
Voters should also maintain a proper social distance of at least six feet between themselves and others. It is advisable to bring your own supply of hand sanitizer with you for personal use, although the use of sanitizing wipes may damage voting equipment. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after voting, and after sneezing, coughing, or touching shared objects.
If possible, consider voting early to avoid election day rushes and lines, as well as to ensure that you have adequate time to vote safely. You may also choose to vote at off-peak times such as mid-morning. Check your voting locations and requirements before arriving at the facility to ensure that you have everything you need with you to vote, including identification and other necessary documents. If possible, bring your own black ink pen or stylus for electronic touch-screen voting machines to minimize contact.
The safest option to vote in the 2020 election is to vote by mail, which eliminates the need for direct contact with others. This option should be used by those who are vulnerable and at a higher risk of infection and serious illness, such as the elderly, immunocompromised, and those with lung diseases such as asthma.
Bear in mind that mail-in ballots must either be received by November 3 or postmarked before that date, depending on your state’s specific legislation and that some states require voters to bring their ballots to set drop-off locations. Some states also require “blind voting,” which means placing your ballot inside an unmarked envelope which is then placed inside the mailing envelope, so that ballots can be counted anonymously. Make sure to check your state’s specific rules and regulations regarding absentee voting before turning in your ballot.
For more information about how to vote safely, visit the CDC’s Polling Locations and Voters page. To register to vote, check your registration, or find more information about voting in your state, visit Vote.org.