COVID-19 will still be with us in November. Since a vaccine is not expected to be ready until at least 2021, here are our recommendations about how to safely cast your ballots during the general election.
While Election Day is the “first Tuesday next after the first Monday in November,” it actually represents the last day that you can vote in most states. With absentee and early voting options, voting will start weeks earlier. No matter what, voters can cast their ballots in ways that can keep them safe and comfortable this November.
One of the best ways to vote safely is by using a mail ballot. If voting by mail or by absentee is an option for you in your state, doing so may be the best way to keep you and your community safe from COVID-19. All states have their own policies for by-mail voting methods, so it is crucial to do your research before casting your ballot. Prior to this year, there were five vote-by-mail states, meaning that they sent a ballot in the mail to all voters before each election without requiring them to submit a request. In addition to those five, at least three more, plus the District of Columbia, will automatically send ballots to all active voters for this November election.
Twenty-nine additional states have no-excuse absentee voting, meaning a voter can request an absentee ballot through the mail without needing an excuse. While 16 states require an excuse for voting by mail, many have expanded the list of acceptable reasons to include “fear of getting COVID,” making it easier for voters to have this as an option. Keep in mind the requirements in your state for returning your ballot, as some states require a notary or two witnesses.
In-person voting options will be available for most voters. Voting by mail is safe and secure, but it does not work for everyone. Some voters need in-person voting for accessibility reasons, or they simply prefer voting at a polling place. Election administrators across the nation are working hard to make in-person voting options safe and accessible. If your state has early voting, you may experience fewer people and shorter lines at the polls during this period before Election Day. It not only reduces exposure, but it also prevents overwhelming the system on Election Day.
On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump. It allocated $400 million to states to help administer voting during the pandemic. Much of this funding is being used for cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment for voting sites and poll workers, which can give voters peace of mind.
You can do your part as well in minimizing the spread of coronavirus while voting. If you plan to vote in person, whether early or on Election Day, wear a mask covering your nose and mouth, consider bringing hand sanitizer or disposable gloves, and practice social distancing by standing six feet apart from your fellow voters. Taking these precautions can not only keep poll workers and election administrators safe, but also you as a voter. Read more recommendations for voters at cdc.gov.
Working together with the appropriate knowledge and prevention measures, we can help keep each other safe while voting in the election during these unprecedented times.