This is an important time in America and, if eligible to, you should vote by November 3rd. Less than a week away, many people worry about whether it is safe to vote in-person on election day amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. There are several safe practices to engage in while voting to limit the risk of viral transmission. To reduce the number of people at poll locations on election day and maintain social distancing, voters are not limited to casting ballots in person. Alternative options include early voting, mail-in ballots, and designated drop-off boxes.
Mail-In Ballot or Drop Off
In Maryland, the last day to request a mail-in ballot was October 20th (Maryland State Board of Elections, 2020). If you are one of the many Americans who requested a ballot through this service, you have two options on how to submit it. You can either send the ballot via mail or drop it off at a designated drop-off box location. Drop off locations are listed on the ballot and available at iwillvote.com, along with nearby voting locations. Make sure to follow all directions carefully when you receive and fill out your ballot so your vote can be counted. This is the safest option for voting because the risk of viral transmission is lowest. Some Americans are choosing one of these two options but others believe that in-person is the best way possible to vote.
Voting early will likely reduce the risk of transmission due to fewer crowds and lines. In Maryland, anyone who is registered to vote can vote early. States have different rules and dates when it comes to voting early. Visit https://www.usa.gov/election-office to find your official state voting website. For example, Maryland’s State Board of Elections has a website for people to learn how to register to vote, where to vote, and how to check their ballot status (Maryland State Board of Elections, 2020). Voting early is another great option if you are worried about the number of people you will be around on election day. It is still crucial to maintain social distancing of at least six feet whenever possible and to adhere to state and local guidelines for public health precautions (CDC, 2020).
In-person voting carries the risk of COVID-19 transmission but these risks can be mitigated. If you plan to vote in-person, make sure to wear a mask or facial covering. Face shields, while not mandated, can provide extra protection to concerned individuals. Wearing gloves will minimize the risk of viral transmission through touching infected surfaces. Furthermore, it is important to be prepared and to keep your hands clean. Make sure you use hand sanitizer, whether you decide to wear gloves or not (CDC, 2020). Hand sanitizer may also be available at polling stations, along with extra masks and gloves. While voting can be stressful, especially amidst fear about COVID-19, the pandemic should certainly not dissuade anyone from doing so. Taking the proper precautions and evaluating all voting options, the risk of viral transmission can be mitigated and people can feel confident about safely voting.
“Absentee and Early Voting.” USAGov, www.usa.gov/absentee-voting.
Elections, Maryland State Board of. Early Voting, elections.maryland.gov/voting/early_voting.html.
I Will Vote, iwillvote.com/.
Mai Tuyet Pho, MD. “How to Stay Safe on Election Day When You’re Voting during a Pandemic.” UChicago Medicine, UChicago Medicine, 13 Oct. 2020, www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/voting-safety.
Tips for Voters to Reduce Spread of COVID-19. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/going-out/voting-tips.html