This post was made possible by AARP in their effort to protect the 50+ vote. All opinions are my own.
I remember casting my first ballot a few months after my 18th birthday, sending in absentee ballots during college, and waiting in line at polling places in my community. Through the years the issues that I’ve cared about have shifted as I’ve gotten older and of course, none of us has ever had to vote during a pandemic.
Voting this year is different due to coronavirus so it’s important to know how to vote safely during a pandemic. Educate yourselves and make a plan early to protect both your physical and your mental health, and the health of those around you. Being safe helps protect the 50-plus vote which affects caregivers in multigenerational families, especially those living in the sandwich generation.
Here’s what you need to know to before you vote in the 2020 general election and how to vote safely during a pandemic to keep yourself, and those in your community, safe.
Before Your Vote
Know Important Deadlines About Voting in Your State
Each state sets the rules for its elections. It’s important to understand the voting process in your state so you can vote early, make plans to send in absentee ballots, and understand how polling stations will be operated if you need to vote in-person.
According to AARP, many states have expanded absentee voting, so that any registered voter can safely cast a ballot from home this year. Other states are going further, mailing absentee ballots — or applications for absentee ballots — to all registered voters.
AARP’s state voting guides are a helpful resource as the general election approaches. There is a guide for each state that tells you how to register to vote, how to vote absentee or early — where those options are available — and the key deadlines you need to know.
Study the Issues Affecting Your Family and Choose Candidates Wisely
While my teens and 8th grade students are extremely concerned about voter turnout, election fraud, and the outcome of the election, I’m thinking ahead. I know there are important issues that will affect individuals that are the age of my parents and in-laws and my future as I age.
AARP urges voters to keep in mind priorities for the economy, Medicare, long-term care, and social security as you consider candidates. These helpful articles share the organization’s priorities so you can choose a candidate that best aligns with these values.
We know there is a national economic impact of the pandemic, but did you know COVID-19 is making it even more difficult for Americans age 50-plus to keep and find jobs? This article about securing the economic health of Americans over 50 describes the challenges and what’s at stake. Consider candidates who will help ensure older workers can recover from the economic downturn that our nation has faced since the pandemic began.
Medicare provides affordable health care for 62 million seniors and for people with disabilities. Americans pay into the program their entire working lives and are guaranteed benefits that help make health care accessible and affordable. The 2020 election could determine whether there will be changes to the nation’s health care system, including to Medicare. Read Lower the Prices of Prescription Drugs, Protect and Strengthen Medicare to know what’s at stake.
Americans age 50-plus and others in need of long-term care face a patchwork of public and private services, costly institutional care and unpaid family caregivers. COVID-19 has raised alarms about the safety and quality of institutional care. As you consider a candidate, keep in mind AARP’s priorities for long-term care and choose candidates who will work to Build a Strong Long-Term Care System.
Currently, 45 million retired workers and 3.1 million dependents receive Social Security benefits, which represent the largest source of income for most beneficiaries. One out of every 4 households rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. A candidate’s ability to Strengthen Social Security needs to be a priority.
How to Vote Safely During a Pandemic
States are making changes to the election process because of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 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.
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 so here’s what you need to know as you make your plan to vote on, or before, November 3.
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.
- 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
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
For more CDC advice for voters, read CDC Issues Health and Safety Guidelines for Voters, Poll Workers on the AARP website.
No matter how you decide to cast your ballot this election year, let’s continue the legacy of prior generations that fought for the right to vote. For more voter resources from AARP, visit:
I was compensated for this post but all opinions are my own. Some images are courtesy of AARP.