How to Cast Your Ballot Safely on Election Day

If you’re voting in person on November 3, go prepared, take the usual COVID-19 precautions—and have patience.

Voters wait in line outside Philadelphia City Hall to cast their early voting ballots, October 27, 2020.

Mark Makela/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant shift in Americans’ election plans with a record number of voters casting their ballot by mail and early in-person voting. More than 69 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 presidential election, with still six days left until Election Day, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project—that’s more than half the total number of votes that were counted during the entire 2016 presidential election. But experts are still expecting a strong turnout on November 3. If you’re planning to head to the polls to vote in person, make sure to take basic preventative measures to protect yourself and your community.

Here’s how to cast your ballot safely.

Confirm your registration and polling location.

Start by checking your registration status and finding your polling place. If you haven’t registered, some states offer same-day registration and will allow you to register and vote at the same time.

Changes to polling places are also possible due to COVID-19. These may include different locations, layouts, procedures, and availability of translators. Some election officials have also moved check-in tables and lines outside in accordance with public health guidelines, so be prepared to spend time outdoors and dress accordingly.

Wear a mask and come prepared.

Take the same precautions you would take in any public setting during the pandemic: Wear a mask or face covering, wash your hands with soap and water before and after going to your polling place, and bring hand sanitizer.

The CDC also recommends bringing your own supplies to help prevent delays at your election site and limit your time at the polls. Remember to pack a black-ink pen; any required documentation, such as your identification (check with your voting site if ID is required); and prepared items, such as registration forms (if you’re registering to vote and your state allows same-day registration), voter guides, and sample ballots. These can all help to speed up voting.

Protect yourself and others from COVID-19 at your polling site.

To avoid waiting in lines with large groups of people, consider voting at off-peak times, such as mid-morning or early afternoon. And regardless of whether there’s a crowd or not, don’t forget to practice social distancing and stay six feet away from election workers and other voters.

In addition, avoid touching things unrelated to voting, and don’t try to wipe down or disinfect voting machines on your own—voting machines can be sensitive, and election workers are trained to sanitize the equipment.

Support your community.

Lend a hand to others. Check in with your neighbors. Do they need a ride to the polls? Does a friend need help arranging childcare? If you have flexibility in your schedule, try to offer assistance—while taking precautionary measures, of course.

You have a right to vote, and if you see that someone is preventing you or others from exercising that right, report it by calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Be patient.

With possible precautions and changes in place at your polling site, there may be long lines. Don’t be discouraged. Make sure to have water, snacks, and reading material with you.

After voting, be patient on election night. Many states will not have complete results in the wee hours of the morning. With a record number of mail-in ballots, counting the returns will take time, and election officials warn it could take weeks to determine the results.

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