By Snehal Shinh
As the elections grow closer, many are concerned with how to vote during these troubling times and how much their vote really matters. With these elections, as with any, every vote counts. These current times have involved so many changes that these elections are being carried out in a way to keep the American people as safe as possible.
Many health officials are urging Americans to vote by mail as it is the safest form of voting; voting by mail is also referred to as “absentee voting”. This year has already seen a surge in the amount of voting by mail. In comparison to the last election, the projected amount of this year’s absentee ballots went from 27.4% to 50.3%; however, this is only considering the 2020 primaries. Regardless, the rising popularity in absentee voting is clear and reflects the growing concerns of COVID-19. With this in mind, the likelihood of voting by mail is higher especially with states encouraging absentee voting by mailing every registered voter a vote-by-mail application. Most states, like California, Colorado, and Florida, are not requiring an excuse for absentee voting. However, there are some states that are requiring approved excuses, but these are easy to get around due to being at high risk or caring for someone that has a high risk of contracting Covid, and all registered voters are allowed to be excused from in person voting. When voting by mail, getting the ballot sent out as early as possible, before November 3 to be safe, is always the best course of action as the ballots need to be received no later than November 3, except in some states like California where they will accept them up till 17 days after the election.
If voting by mail is something some Americans are unable to do or wish to do, the option to vote early in person is available. In some states, early voting had started as early as September, but others have started mid-October. Some who have already voted early have reported long lines, but this issue should hopefully resolve itself as the early voting period continues. Since early voting has opened up, the amount of early votes have already increased greatly with at least ten states reporting a much larger amount of early votes in comparison to the last election. The benefit of voting early in person is that the vote would be counted on the same day rather than later.
Of course, voting in person on election day is still available. As with in person early voting, the CDC has issued many recommendations for in person polling as well as guidelines placed by the Infectious Disease Society of America. First and foremost, workers at the polls are checked for any Covid symptoms before shifts to ensure the safety of themselves and those coming in to vote. Ensuring more polling locations that are well ventilated and allow for social distancing are to be taken into account. Voting locations must be thoroughly sanitized and wiped down regularly after each use of voting booths to prevent transmission of germs. These guidelines and suggestions show that in person voting can be done safely as long as election administrators take proactive steps during these times.
It’s important as elections grow closer and closer to make a voting plan as soon as possible. For those that are unable to vote, encouraging those who are can to start making their plans is just as important. Each method of voting has its own benefits and steps set in to make the American voting experience safe and enjoyable for those who may be voting for the first time. As always remember to wear a mask properly at all times and maintain social distance.