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CDC Issues Health and Safety Guidelines for Voters, Poll Workers

Preventive measures and voting options top the list

spinner image A person turns in his ballot at a drop box
A voter casts a ballot at a drop box in Baltimore, Maryland.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The best ways to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread during the November elections are to provide voters a variety of options for casting their ballots, and to safely prepare polling stations, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Elections with only in-person voting on a single day are higher risk for COVID-19 spread because there will be larger crowds and longer wait times,” the CDC guidance says. The agency suggests that election officials, poll workers and voters practice such personal prevention measures as wearing cloth face coverings, handwashing, physical distancing, staying home when sick, and cleaning and disinfecting polling stations and equipment.

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Each state sets the rules for its elections when it comes to whether residents can vote early, absentee ballots and how polling stations will be operated.

"One of AARP's most important parts of our mission this year, in terms of voter participation, is to make sure people 50-plus and AARP members understand the voting processes in their state, and can vote safely,” said John Hishta, AARP senior vice president for campaigns. “Recognizing that each state approaches their election process somewhat differently, we will make sure that the residents of each state understand and can fully participate in their voting process."

More CDC advice for voters

Follow healthy practices while voting.

  • Wear a cloth face covering.
  • Wash your hands before entering and leaving the polling place.
  • While inside the polling station, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently, especially after touching door handles or voting machines.
  • Maintain physical distance (six feet, or about two arm's lengths apart), even when you are wearing a mask.

Consider a variety of ways to vote.

  • Voting methods that limit the number of people you come in contact with and the amount of time you are in contact with others can help reduce the spread of the virus.
  • Check with your local election office for information on all the ways you can vote.

Avoid crowds.

  • Use early voting, if available.
  • Vote at off-peak times, such as midmorning.
  • If driving to the polls, monitor the voter line from your car and get in line when it's shorter.
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Prepare ahead of time.

  • Double-check the location of your polling place. It may have changed because of the coronavirus.
  • Make sure your voter registration is up to date.
  • If you have any disabilities, check with your local election official for specific information.
  • Review a sample ballot at home to speed the process of casting your ballot at the polling place.
  • Bring your own black ink pen to use with a paper ballot or stylus for touchscreen machines.

More CDC guidance for election officials

Offer a variety of ways to vote.

  • Consider alternatives to in-person voting.
  • Offer early voting or extended hours, if available in your jurisdiction.
  • Consider curbside voting.
  • Advertise that crowds are lighter midmorning.

Consider physical barriers.

  • Barriers, such as plexiglass shields, can be used to protect workers and voters, at registration desks or between voting stations.
  • Consider placing markings or decals on the floor to indicate 6-foot social distancing space.

Provide cleaning supplies, disinfectants.

  • Make sure poll workers wear face coverings to prevent airborne spread.
  • Ensure adequate supplies, such as soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and no-touch trash cans.
  • Encourage poll workers to wash their hands frequently.
  • Place hand sanitizer in frequently used locations, including at registration desks, where “I Voted” stickers are given out and at exits.
How to Vote Safely

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