You might be wondering, is it safe to go out and vote with the looming threat of a pandemic? There are a lot of factors to consider when answering this question. Is the virus stagnant or spreading in your area? What safety protocols are being taken at your polling place? Do you have a higher risk of developing severe symptoms? Here are a few things to consider so you can feel more prepared and comfortable when casting your vote.
Is the Virus Spreading in Your Area?
The Houston Health Department said recently that the city’s coronavirus test positivity rate has dropped to 5%, and a lower percent positive suggests reduced transmission, which is good news for Houston, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. Voters are still encouraged to practice social distancing and are required to wear a mask when inside a building or in close contact with others.
What Protocols Are Being Taken at Your Polling Place?
The more an individual interacts with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Elections with only in-person voting on a single day create a higher risk for COVID-19 spread because there will be larger crowds and longer wait times. We encourage everyone to vote early, if available in your jurisdiction, as it allows fewer people to be in the same area at once, which can maximize the ability to socially distance and sanitize between visitors. The CDC recommends that voters practice healthy behaviors at the polling place, including washing your hands before entering and after leaving the polling location, using hand sanitizer frequently, particularly after touching surfaces, covering your cough, wearing a mask, and maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet.
Do You Have a Higher Risk of Developing Severe Symptoms?
According to the CDC, people most at risk include older adults and people who are immunocompromised or have a chronic condition, like heart disease, cancer, sickle cell disease, kidney disease, or COPD. Older adults (65 years of age or older) and people who are sick or disabled may vote early by mail if they are registered to vote. Individuals who are out of the county during election day or during the period for early voting and individuals confined in jail may also vote early by mail. Here’s how:
1. Mail It In
You can utilize an absentee ballot to vote without leaving your home. You request your ballot, which then gets mailed to you, and then you mail it back with your vote cast on the ballot.
2. Drop off Your Mail-in Ballot
An alternative is requesting your absentee ballot and dropping that off outside of your polling place. This option does not require you to enter the polling place and allows you to keep contact with another person to a minimum.
Reminder: Texas allows certain people to vote by absentee ballot, also known as mail-in voting, if certain conditions are met. The mail-in ballot must be requested by October 23, 2020. Early voting will take place from October 13 through October 30, and election day is November 3.
Voting is essential, but it must be done safely. With the pandemic going on, more options have become available, but if you feel safe enough to visit your polling place and vote there, you should follow certain safety guidelines. Those include wearing a face mask that covers your mouth and nose, keeping six feet of space between you and other people, and bringing hand sanitizer and wipes along with you to sanitize your hands and anything you touch.
Your voice is powerful—are you going to show its strength at the polls this year? Elections matter. You can learn more about the candidates with CommonSpirit Health.
CDC | Most At Risk
CNN | Voting Safely
State of Texas | Health Protocols for Voters