Vote Safely, But VOTE!

Oct 20, 2020 11:00 AM ET

With the U.S. elections less than a month away, the potential impact of COVID-19 on voter turn-out is a real cause for concern. As coronavirus fatalities pass the 210,000 mark, attempts to slow the spread of the pandemic rely on the continued vigilance of millions of people.

How can we minimize the risk of virus transmission, while exercising our democratic right – and duty – to vote on November 3rd?

Get ready to vote
Continue to take all the precautions you can to stay healthy. Every person in every community can play an important part in reducing transmission by washing their hands, wearing a mask and being mindful of physical distancing. You won’t be in a position to vote in person – or to serve as a poll worker – if you have COVID-19.

Vote by mail
The safest way to vote is via a mail-in ballot, especially if you are in a high risk category for the virus. It’s worth noting that many states have adapted their usual mail-in absentee voting protocols to allow for a ‘no-excuse’ mail-in request, while others are automatically sending registered voters an absentee ballot or a form to request one. Check carefully, because rules and submission deadlines vary from state to state.

Travel safely
Walk or bike to the polling station if you can. If you’re planning to use public transit, avoid the busiest commuter times, wear a mask and keep as much distance as you can from others. If you’re travelling in a car with others, wind down the windows to increase the airflow. Remember to stand apart from others at all times – in the line, in the station and when leaving and entering.

Vote early and quickly
At least 40 states are offering early voting. Details vary, so check to see if it’s an option that’s available to you. If you’re voting on November 3rd, consider off-peak hours to cut down on wait time. In either case make sure you have all the documents and ID you need to move quickly through check-in and be sure to familiarize yourself with the ballot before you enter the voting booth so you can vote quickly and leave.

Vote hygienically
Wash your hands thoroughly before and after entering the polling station. Use a 60 percent alcohol hand sanitizer before and after touching objects or surfaces at the polling place. We know that aerosolization plays a big part in virus transmission so make sure to wear a brand-new, face mask and have spares to share. Disposable surgical (blue) masks are fluid resistant and provide some protection against larger respiratory droplets.

Speak up – and keep your distance
Be aware that people with different views about the virus will be attending polling stations, so be prepared to engage in awkward conversations about wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. Don’t hesitate to move along the line if you need to do so to guard your space. It’s never been more important to vote, but it’s crucial that we all take steps to safely and respectfully make our voices heard.

Help others to vote
Some businesses are already contributing their expertise and resources to help make voting safer: encouraging healthy, low-risk staff to volunteer as poll workers; offering large venues as polling locations; delivering supplies to equip new polling stations; and providing safe and free transport to the polls. Leaders can help on the day by encouraging staff to vote and giving them time in the working day to do it.

At IWBI, we’ve been working with Power the Polls to help train newly recruited poll workers in effective health and safety practices at polling stations.

If you have volunteered to work the polls, here is free training to share with your local poll worker trainers. We’re also proud to report that a number of the sports arenas that are now also serving as polling places will be WELL Health-Safety Rated by the time of the vote – one more level of effort to help keep us all safe.

Please vote and encourage others to do so.