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New York City is still in the middle of a pandemic. As COVID-19 rates raise in some neighborhoods throughout the city, it is more important than ever to have a safe voting plan in place before election day.  Here are some ways to make sure you stay safe while exercising your civic duty when you vote.

“The right to vote is an essential element of our democracy and Americans should not have to choose between their rights of citizenship and their own health.”

Open Letter to the US Senate

How to Safely Vote during COVID-19

A nonpartisan guide created by experts from the American Public Health Association has information on safe voting options, such as mailing in ballots, and tips for staying safe if you must vote in person. 

New York’s deadline to request an absentee ballot was on Tuesday, October 27th.  However the U.S. Postal Service recommends requesting a ballot as soon as possible, no later than October 19th. November 3rd is Election Day. Absentee ballots that are mailed in must be postmarked by election day or dropped off by 9pm on November 3rd. Voting by mail is the safest option because you can vote from home.  Just note that, unlike the June primary, you must put two stamps on the return envelope that comes with your absentee ballot. 

You can also vote in person at your polling place on November 3rd or at an early voting site, which may be a different location that your election day polling site, starting Saturday, October 24th. 

If you are voting in person, the following guidance can help you stay safe and make your voting experience go as smoothly as possible. 

  • Try to vote early. Early voting is often less crowded than voting on Election Day. Try to go at times where the center is least likely to be busy, such as mid morning or early afternoon. 
  • Wear a face covering. Make sure to keep your face fully covered (nose, mouth, and chin) at all times. 
  • Before and after voting, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Avoid sanitizing voting machines yourself. Voting machines can be sensitive and election workers are trained to sanitize equipment.
  • Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet to protect yourself, election workers, and other voters.
  • Try to walk or bike to your polling place, rather than taking public transportation or a cab. This will minimize your potential exposure. 

What if COVID-19 Rates are on the Rise in My Neighborhood?

Polling centers will have safety precautions in place to ensure that voting is as safe, no matter what the COVID rates are in your community. If you are at risk of severe COVID infection, consider taking advantage of early voting options described above. If you are sick, stay home and request an absentee ballot by mail (until October 27th) or in person at your borough’s Board of Elections office (until Nov 2nd).

A small glimmer of hope is that measures such as social distancing, washing your hands, and wearing a face covering are all effective measures at slowing or stopping the spread of the coronavirus. As we start to interact with people more regularly and continue to practice civic engagement, following these precautions can help us all stay safe and healthy. 

The Fund for Public Health is the nonprofit partner to the New York City Health Department. Learn more about our work fighting the coronavirus and other epidemics.