Tomorrow’s presidential election may have the largest voter turnout in a century—during the worst pandemic in a century.
“This is probably the most important election of our lifetime,” said Krutika Kuppalli, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. “We are going to see the convergence of the two biggest stories of our generation in this election and this pandemic.”
According to the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, in-person voting is not especially risky. During a National Geographic event in August, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, compared the risk of in-person voting with going to the grocery store.
“You can think of voting in-person as presenting a similar risk as briefly going inside a restaurant to pick up take-out food, or shopping in a store,” said Kate Eddens, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Indiana University-Bloomington School of Public Health.
That’s assuming that you take these precautions when in-person voting on Tuesday, of course. Here’s what to do:
Keep doing what we’ve been doing
Stay safe when voting in-person by doing the same things you have been doing since March to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus.
“The same processes you go through to be safe when going to the grocery or retail stores or even restaurants, you will want to be just as cautious as in the polling place,” said Gretchen Macht, Ph.D., assistant professor of industrial & systems engineering and director of URI Votes at the University of Rhode Island
“Wear a mask, keep at least a six foot distance from others, wash your hands as much as you can before and after going to vote, and don’t touch your face,” said Eddens.
Know your ballot
To make the in-process voting process even safer, go as quickly as you can.
We know that the shorter the amount of time we spend in indoor spaces, the less likely it is that the virus will infect us. “Remember, successful infection requires exposure to the virus for a period of time,” Eddens said.
If possible, do not bring people who are not voting to your polling place—they can slow you down—and find out whether your state offers curbside voting for people at greater risk of COVID-19, like North Carolina and Utah do.
Know your ballot ahead of time. Ballotpedia provides a fast way to check out your ballot, so you can decide in advance who and what you are voting for.
Leave as little as possible to the last minute. “Plan what you want to do for election day,” said Krutika Kuppalli, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Bring a pen and a stylus
Along with a mask and hand sanitizer with at least sixty percent alcohol, bring a black pen and stylus to the polls.
Since you cannot be required to bring one (by law, additional requirements cannot be imposed on voters), Hillsborough and Broward counties in Florida, for example, will provide single-use plastic-encased pens.
Texas will encourage voters to bring their own pens, but also have pens to take with them. Other places like Rochester, Minnesota also encourage voters to bring their own pens, but otherwise will sanitize the ones on-site after use.
Some voting places have touch-screen voting, and require styluses. You can also bring your own. Indiana suggests using the eraser end of a pencil. If you do not have your own in Rhode Island, each voter will receive one and they will be disinfected after use.
You can get additional information about your voting location, including how to contact them to ask questions, by clicking on this resource from the US Vote Foundation.
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