How to vote safely during the pandemic

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We know it is scary out there with a deadly airborne virus lurking around – and many people want to stay safely inside their homes. But with the current climate of America, every vote counts and we want to help people safely make their way to the polls.

Early voting has begun in many states across America, and to date, nearly 35 million people have cast their votes, breaking records from state-to-state.  And Texas was no exception, flooding the polls on the first day of early voting – Oct. 13 – and have not taken the foot off the gas pedal since.

There is an option for mail-in and absentee ballots — both with voter suppression tactics on the red alert meter, many feel that in-person voting is the best option. But still, there are many safety concerns.

Here are some safety tips and resources you should take advantage of:

Before heading to the polls, check your voting station in advance to make sure you are (1) at the right place (2) their safety guidelines. There are even some places with DRIVE-THRU voting locations.

  • What have been the anticipated wait times?
  • Are masks required for both voters and poll workers?
  • Are markers in place to maintain 6-feet social distancing?
  • What are the entry and exit points? Are they separate?
  • Are there Plexiglas barriers between the voter and the poll worker?
  • Is there adequate space between voting privacy booths?
  • Will poll workers sanitize frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, voting booths and bathrooms regularly?

According to the Brennan Center and the Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines, the safest locations will be school gymnasiums, community recreation centers, convention centers and large parking lots.

Tip: Do not vote in person if your polling station is located at a high-risk facility, such as a senior care facility.

Some districts plan to offer curbside voting, especially for those who are not feeling well or who are at extremely high risk, according to Hannah Klain, an Equal Justice Works fellow in the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice in New York City.

“If election workers are doing curbside voting, we would want them to have additional PPE like gloves, a face shield and a face mask,” Klain said.

More tips:

Vote at less busy times of the day. If you can aim for mid-morning or early to mid-afternoon, you may encounter fewer lines.

Check social media. People will often post updates about crowds at different times of the day, which can be used to plan your trip.

Carefully choose your mask and cover your nose! Studies have shown that cotton masks with two or three layers of fabric are more protective than single-ply masks or bandanas, and it’s not safe to stand in line with your snout exposed even if your mouth is covered, experts say.

Vote alone! Unless you have a disability that requires assistance, vote alone, experts say. This is not the year to bring your children or other non-voting family members to the voting location.

Bring your own sanitizing material! Along with that highly protective mask, you should definitely bring tissues and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol or disinfecting wipes, the CDC says.

Bring your own PEN! Sometimes you have to sign the voter card or mark a paper ballot.

If your voting station has touch-screen voting, you should bring along a cotton swab, finger cover or glove to cast your vote instead of using your finger. Be sure to immediately discard those aids (peel the glove off from your wrist inside out to avoid cross-contamination).

PLAN AHEAD!

Whether you plan on mail-in, absentee or in-person voting, ALWAYS plan ahead. Use this guide and make a checklist before you leave the home.