The US presidential election on Nov. 3 is just weeks away, and millions of people are preparing to cast their ballots around the country.
But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic makes many aspects of this election unprecedented. On top of figuring out the logistics of voting, many people are also worried about putting themselves at risk and contracting the virus while ensuring their vote counts.
Voting is one of the most important ways to sustain a fair and just democracy. Here are four ways you can make sure you stay safe while exercising your right to vote.
1. Making a Voting Plan
Early voters line up to cast their ballots at the South Regional Library polling location in Durham, N.C., Oct. 15, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic means that voting early and voting by mail will play a much larger role in this election than ever before.
Making a voting plan will help you keep track of your state’s guidelines and any important deadlines. You can use HeadCount’s tracker to find the most up-to-date information about voting in your state.
The first step of any voting plan should be checking your voter registration status to ensure you're ready to vote.
Then, figure out how you're going to vote, factoring in your state's and district's requirements. If you're voting by mail, decide whether you're returning your ballot by mail or dropping it off at an approved drop-off site or poll site. If you're voting in person, choose whether you're voting early (if your state allows it) or on Nov. 3. Check your state's information on early voting dates and make sure you know your polling location — it may be different than your normal poll site on Election Day.
Once you've made your plan, create a reminder on your phone or email so you don't forget. You should also encorage friends and family to make their own voting plans and share them with you.
2. Voting by Mail
A woman casts her ballot early voting ballot at drop box outside of the Eastern State Penitentiary on Oct. 17, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pa.
States have different guidelines about voting by mail, so it's important to check the deadlines and requirements for where you live.
Note that five states — Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas — will not accept the fear of COVID-19 as a justification for voting by mail.
Mail-in voting is a secure way to vote and fraud is extremely rare. However, if your ballot is submitted with errors, like writing in pencil or signing with a different signature, it might not count. Make sure to pay close attention to detail and follow HeadCount’s advice on completing your mail-in ballot.
Mail-in ballots are only accepted if they have been postmarked on or before Election Day, so make sure you've requested your ballot with plenty of time to spare and return it as soon as you can.
3. Voting Early
A man stands in line outside of the Richland County Voter Registration & Elections Office on the second day of in-person absentee and early voting on Oct. 6, 2020 in Columbia, SC.
Early voting distributes the influx of people coming to voting locations over a longer period of time, which helps voters avoid long lines and crowded polling places.
Each state has different guidelines for voting early and ranges anywhere from 45 days to a week before Election Day. You should also check the hours and days that your local polling station is open to make sure you schedule accordingly.
4. Staying Safe at Polling Places
A voter stands in line on a social distancing marker while waiting to cast a ballot at an early voting polling location for the 2020 Presidential elections in Houston, Texas, Oct. 13, 2020.
If you decide to vote in person, make sure you wear a mask and bring hand sanitizer to keep you and others safe.
Try to avoid crowded lines by going to the polling site early or at off-peak times. Once there, stay at least six feet away from other voters and maintain social distancing rules.
You can also bring your own black pen or stylus to avoid touching pens that other voters have used. If you can’t bring your own, try to disinfect pens with wipes before you touch anything.
You should also prepare in advance to avoid spending more time at your polling place than needed. Find your voter district information ahead of time and review a sample ballot through your local election office’s website so you know exactly what to expect.
Global Citizen and HeadCount have teamed up to launch Just Vote, a campaign mobilizing young Americans to register to vote ahead of the 2020 election and beyond. As part of the campaign, your favorite artists and entertainers are offering exclusive experiences, performances, and memorabilia — and they can only be unlocked once eligible voters check their voter registration status. Learn more about Just Vote and how you can take action here.