The US presidential election is here, and it’s time to vote! This year we must balance our voting plans with pandemic safety. Open Source Medical Supplies has created documentation for Gear Up to VoteSafe, a non-partisan initiative formed by RESOLVE, VoteSafe, and Mission for Masks, and has compiled guidance to help ensure a safer in-person voting experience.
If you are a poll worker and want to know how to set up polling locations as safely as possible, check out our Voter Safety Guide.
There are multiple ways to cast your vote this election:
- Voting in person at the polls.
- Dropping off your mail-in ballot at the polls.
- Dropping off your ballot at a local ballot box.
- Mailing in your ballot.
Here, we will break down how to be as safe as possible in each of those cases with recommended guidelines.
How should I cast my vote?
This depends on what options are available to you. For information on what voting options are available in your area, please click HERE or check out this interactive map. Whichever way you plan on voting, we’re here to share some strategies on safer voting during the pandemic.
Vote by Mail
Voting by mail is the safest option. You can mail your ballot in (no postage required) or drop your ballot off at a ballot dropbox. If you are mailing your ballot, make sure to check your local deadlines and send it in advance of the deadline for your jurisdiction. If you need to request an absentee ballot, you can do so HERE. Do not wait until the last minute! Make sure you follow ALL ballot instructions, including using black or blue ballpoint pen and signing where required.
Getting to the Polls or a Ballot Drop-Off Box
To find your nearest poll or ballot drop off location, you can visit Voting Info Project and enter your address. It will show a map of in-person voting places as well as drop-off sites. From here, you can decide how you get to the polls OR the ballot drop-off site. Options include:
- Walking / Biking / Self Travel (outdoors).
- Driving your personal vehicle.
- Getting a ride from someone within your pandemic pod.
- Getting a ride from a rideshare service.
- Public transportation.
Whenever you are traveling with others, wear a mask! Be sure to use hand sanitizer or wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after contacting high-touch surfaces such as: door handles, vehicle interiors, ticket booths, or crossing signal buttons.
Voting In Person at the Polls
The risks associated with in-person voting will vary based on your location, the level of viral activity within your community, and the precautions being taken in your area. If you’d like to evaluate risks of in-person voting, you can visit MicroCovid and select your state, then select “Vote – In Person.” Fill out the additional information to receive an approximation of how risky it will be. Depending on where you are, and the mask-wearing habits within your community, you may also want to check out the other risk estimates from the drop down menu.
If your plan is to vote in person, you will need to consider precautions for:
- Getting to and from the polls (see above).
- Waiting in line to vote (outdoors and/or indoors).
- Interacting with the poll workers.
- Use of the polling booth.
Waiting in line has risks that depend on if the line is outdoors (less risky) or indoors (more risky), whether or not everyone is 6 feet apart, and if others are wearing masks. The CDC has released guidelines for poll workers, but adherence to these guidelines will vary between polling stations. It is best to come prepared! Here are some actions you can take to stay as safe as possible:
- Bring hand sanitizer to use after touching surfaces or shared objects.
- Stay 6 feet away from others at all times.
- If you get assistance from a poll worker, make sure they disinfect any adaptive tools or devices.
- Wear a mask!
For more information and resources for accessible voting, you can read THIS list.
In some areas, voters have reported long lines that have taken hours to get through. Be prepared for both outdoor and indoor lines. Wear or bring appropriate clothing for the weather, especially if there will be temperature changes throughout the day. Bring water to stay hydrated and snacks to keep your energy up, and only pull your mask down when drinking or eating (sanitize your hands before removing your mask).
Dropping off your Absentee Ballot at the Polls
If you have received an Absentee Ballot and would like to return it to a polling place on Election Day, you have this as an option! Prepare your absentee ballot as directed, head to your nearest polling place (see above instructions for Voting In Person at the Polls) and ask a poll worker for the next steps.