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It’s Time to Plan for How to Safely Cast Your Ballot

Consider voting from home or voting early — and confirm your polling place if you go in person

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Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Jo Ann Jenkins

En español | Like so much else that’s been altered by the coronavirus, voting in this year’s general election will be different. Many states have adopted new rules to make it safer to cast a ballot during the pandemic, including easier access to mail-in and absentee ballots and longer windows for early in-person voting. Some states are mailing applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters, encouraging everyone to safely cast ballots from home.

Of course, there are also new problems that the pandemic creates for voting. For instance, an expected shortage of poll workers — many of whom are the older Americans at increased risk for coronavirus — could mean fewer polling places in some states on Election Day. And voter turnout is expected to be higher than usual, which could mean longer lines at polling places at a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says we should still be social distancing and avoiding large indoor gatherings.

All of this means that this year, you’ll want to make a plan for how to vote as safely as possible. If you’re accustomed to stopping by your polling place on Election Day and briskly casting your vote, it’s probably time to adjust expectations and consider alternatives.

Don’t wait to explore your options. Some states, like North Carolina and Wisconsin, have already started mailing out absentee ballots. Others, like Virginia and Minnesota, have opened early in-person voting for the general election. Many more states are planning to do the same in the weeks ahead.

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AARP has published voting guides for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help you plan. Our guides have everything you need to know about how to register to vote, how to request mail-in and absentee ballots where they’re available, and how to vote in person — either early, where possible, or on Election Day.

These resources are part of AARP’s Protect Voters 50+ effort, which is aimed at ensuring older Americans can vote safely during this pandemic, however they decide to cast their ballot.

We’re sharing tips for safe voting through email, direct mail, social media and ads, with specific outreach to communities of color.

I hope you’ll consider signing up to join our Protect Voters 50+  initiative. We’ll keep you updated on the issues that matter and provide you the information you need to cast your ballot safely.