Election Day 2020: How to safely ensure your vote is counted during COVID-19

We are getting mighty close to what may be one of the most important elections the world has ever seen—because whatever the outcome next Tuesday, rest assured there will be world-wide repercussions.

The political choices we make as a nation absolutely affect the rest of the globe and our standing in it. I don’t need to point out that there’s a lot at stake this year especially… and Americans have to choose their leadership with care.

So consider this my public service announcement (PSA) urging you to get out and vote, no matter which candidate you support.

Of course, I realize COVID-19 has made the 2020 election particularly precarious. So allow me to follow up this PSA with some advice on how to fulfill your civic duty safely, despite the unique risks in play this year.

Extra risk requires extra protection

First things first, you’ve probably noticed that most of the volunteers at polling places are older—the same group at highest risk for COVID-19.

So I’d like to start by encouraging younger people to assume a more proactive role than in previous years. Their participation will allow older adults to cover tasks that involve less contact with the public—and less exposure to potential infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines all the way back in June urging poll workers and voters to follow all the basic safety guidelines—wear a mask, maintain six feet of distance, and stay home if you are sick with or have been exposed to COVID-19.

We can only hope that voters and poll workers alike will uphold these safety precautions to protect their fellow Americans. (Like I’m always reminding you—no one likes to wear masks, but in times such as these, it’s truly a civic duty.)

So, whether you’re working at a polling location or simply voting at one, I recommend the following:

  • Secure some extra personal protective equipment—like a face shield and an extra KN95 mask, in case you are stuck waiting in a long line. (These masks are available on com and from other retailers. They block 95 percent of infections particles. So having an extra handy is wise, especially if you live somewhere warmer, in case you sweat through it.)
  • Use a voting booth flanked by empty neighbors, if you can.
  • Bring disinfecting wipes to wipe everything down before you touch anything.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands before entering and after leaving your polling location—or wear gloves and promptly dispose of them.

Make sure your vote is counted

Of course, we’ve had a lot of time to plan for this election. So it’s my hope that polling places have been funded and equipped with proper ventilation, including HVAC filters and even irradiation to the source of air in the buildings. (If I equipped both my home and office, there’s no reason polling places can’t do the same.)

But again, because you can’t really count on any of this, try to at least plan your vote during a slower time, if you have the flexibility to do so. (That is, if you haven’t already taken advantage of early voting.) This effort will help to spread out voters and stagger crowds—which will hopefully already be thinner due to higher rates of voting by mail this year.

For the first time, I will not be in my state on election day, so I opted to vote by absentee ballot myself. I ordered it online and hand delivered it to my board of elections. This was weeks ago, and I was amazed and pleasantly surprised to see so many others doing the exact same thing.

Either way, here’s the bottom line: It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure a safe voting experience.

This pandemic has been a nightmare for all of us, no doubt. But it may never have gotten so out-of-control had we been given strong leadership and an example to follow from the start—one of self-restraint, of respect and kindness for our fellow Americans, and of diligence and consistency in the simplest of daily precautions.

Yes, we are a nation built on the rights of the individual to pretty much do what we please. But, when faced with a crisis the likes of which most people alive today have never witnessed, we need to think of our neighbors. Because history will judge us on our choices we make today—including how we treated each other.

I have said this before and I will say it again: How this virus affects our lives, our livelihoods, our country’s reputation—including for how long—depends almost entirely on YOU.  Not some scientist, not some vaccine… but on your choices, and your behaviors.

So please, do the right thing, always. And as Election Day approaches, please make sure your vote is counted—safely.


“How to Avoid COVID while Voting.” Scientific American, 10/14/2020. (scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-avoid-covid-while-voting/)