Election 2020 USA: is it safe to vote early?
Stay safe voting during a pandemic, with tensions running high: all you need to know to exercise your democratic right this extraordinary year.
Voters in Georgia waited hours at the polls on the state's first day of early voting in the November election: Almost 7.6 million Georgians are registered to vote in the November election, a record for the state. https://t.co/KWlxG2N5Ul— US Election News (@USElection_News) October 13, 2020
It’s a battle between two fundamental human rights; the right to personal safety and the right to vote. So with all the potential concerns, is it safe to vote early this year?
Spoiler alert: the answer is yes and it’s possibly even safer than voting on November 3.
No doubt that it’s an exceptional time for an election to take place, but voting is more important this year than ever before and early voting is completely safe if you prepare well and go with plenty of time to spare.
Early voting in-person
Which states allow early voting in person?
A get-out-the vote group led by former first lady Michelle Obama will team up with an organization backed by NBA star LeBron James to provide food, protective gear, free legal advice and rides to the polls for people voting early in the #Election2020 https://t.co/x0CuiQqULQ— Reuters (@Reuters) October 14, 2020
In some states you can only vote early and in person if you’re casting an absentee ballot. So if you know already that you can’t physically go to a poll on 3 November, but you can right now 0 that option is for you. Absentee ballot request deadlines are looming, but there's still time to request one if you need. The US Vote Foundation has all the deadines state-by-state.
Another thing to note about voting early in-person is that some states allow you to vote until the day before the election and some stop early voting up to 5 days before the election.
To find out the rules in your state, go to vote.org.
How to make voting early and in person safe
The concerns surrounding voting in person this year are pretty unique, not least because there’s a global health crisis that affects all of us, but also because in particular this year, the emotions surrounding the two candidates are running pretty strong already.
To keep the covid-19 related risks to a minimum, there are several things you can do to help stop the spread of the virus.
- Choose the time of day carefully to avoid crowds. It’s likely you’ll find longer lines and more people before and after work, and on lunchtime. So if you can, try to vote mid-morning or mid-afternoon. And if you already know your candidate, why wait? It’s likely there will be more people voting as we near the Election Day.
- Wear a mask (obviously) but also make sure it’s a good one, worn correctly. Guidelines tend to be that two to three layers of fabric is suficcient. If you can see your hand on the other side of it, it’s not thick enough. Also beware of the masks that have breathing ventilation holes (typically called N95); they are comfortable for you, but aren’t protecting those around you. And remember to pull the mask up over your nose and mouth!
- Pack the alcohol gel (over 60% alcohol), tissues and gloves. It may also be a good idea to bring your own pen to mark the ballot.
- If you can help it, try to wait in a line outside as long as possible. The virus spreads more easily indoors, where it’s not well ventilated.
- Last but not least, especially if you live in a swing state, if voting in person early or especially on Election Day, be extra careful of your personal safety. Go with a buddy, a friend or member of your family and stay away from anyone displaying intimidating behaviour.
Your right to vote is as important as your physical safety.
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