This election year is marked by unprecedented challenges. Beyond intense political discourse and concerns over election integrity is the ever-looming presence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It can’t be avoided.
In the same way that the COVID-19 outbreak upended all aspects of our daily lives — from working in an office to going to school — how we vote has changed as well.
This has left voters with many questions about how best to cast their ballot on November 3, including how they can vote safely if they choose to do it in person.
First, assess the risks
Dr. Anne Monroe, MSPH, an associate research professor of epidemiology at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University, said that deciding to vote in person this fall — as with everything — bears consideration and weighing how much risk you’re assuming.
It boils down to your comfort level with assessing whether your local jurisdiction has put in place the needed precautions.
It also matters whether you personally feel you have been safe and haven’t been exposed to COVID-19 prior to voting, and what your comfort level is with entering a public space, Monroe told Healthline.
“Very few activities carry zero risk other than sitting at your home alone,” she said. “For everybody, it involves examining what their own health status is, what the status is of their community, what the transmission rate is, whether they have vulnerable individuals in their household, whether or not their children are back in school, or they have been going back out to their offices.”
“It bears a lot of questions to ask yourself,” Monroe added. “How do you stay healthy and how do you do everything you can to make sure your vote is counted? It’s a lot to balance and a lot to process.”
Assessing your personal risk ahead of time can help you feel more at ease with the decision you make.
Become familiar with your official polling place guidelines
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its guidelinesTrusted Source for election polling locations during COVID-19.
As with the recommendations for other public gathering spaces like restaurants and gyms, polling places are expected to regularly disinfect surfaces. They’re also expected to provide signs marking where voters should stand and walk to avoid crowding and maintain proper distancing.