A pandemic guide to voting in person

LPETTET/E+/Getty Images
Originally Published: 

Like a loud train from an unobstructed horizon line, the presidential election is fast approaching. Although come November 3, many more folks than usual will have already voted for the next President of the United States. Because of the pandemic, a lot of people have opted to vote early. But for many, especially young people, voting in person on election day has been the only option that makes sense for them. But, if you’re healthy, young, and voting in person, how do you prepare?

“For the generally healthy, increase hydration with water in the days leading up to voting day,” says Yasmine Matthews, a Baltimore-based nurse practitioner, adding that on the day of, be sure to wear a mask— preferably a surgical or N95 mask, if available. “Use plastic or rubber gloves, and use hand sanitizer as well.”

These are all things that we have heard before, but it’s always good to emphasize it, especially considering that this year will probably attract more voters than we have ever seen before. A recent Harvard Youth Poll has found that 63% of Americans age 18-29 say they will “definitely be voting” in the November election, marking a substantial increase from previous surveys. And since the youth will definitely be showing out in droves, Matthews encourages all in-person voters to maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from other people at the voting facility, in line and elsewhere.

Grace Cary/Moment/Getty Images

As for how you should dress, Matthews suggests considering our comfort in addition to the weather, just in case you have to stand in a line outside. Also, limit the amount of surfaces you’re touching by bringing your own pen or pencil. “Consider also bringing your own pen and plan the day accordingly, in case there are long lines,” Matthews says, adding that if it appears that your usual voting spot is too crowded, make sure you have a back up. “Research multiple voting locations near you, so you have a few options of places to go,” she adds.

As we all know from viral clips of supermarket Karens and subway station Kevins these past few months, some people do not adhere to social distancing rules at all, either by protest or by ignorance. If you encounter a no-mask situation arriving at your usual polling station, again, make sure you have a back-up. “If you pull up to a voting facility and people are not maintaining physical distance or are not wearing masks, you may want to consider going to a less populated voting site,” Matthews says. “This year will likely have less polling site volunteers, who are normally older adults, and less security.”

This year, our seniors, the usual staff at voting sites, might be thinking of protecting their own health by not volunteering at voting sites, so there may be fewer guides at your site. If you’re an especially brave young person, consider becoming a volunteer at a voting site — they definitely will need you.

But if, like me, you are planning to simply cast your vote, followed by an intensive cleanse and anxious wait at home until the results come through, just take a few simple precautions. “If you are already in line, and people are too close behind you, you can politely excuse yourself step aside slightly outside of the line, while maintaining your place, for more distance,” Matthews suggests. “With a little planning ahead, everyone should be able to cast their vote safely.”