​Casting Your Vote During COVID

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on October 13, 2020 # COVID-19, Voting

By guest author Stephanie Woodward

Election Day is right around the corner – are you ready to cast your vote? In the United States, we hold Election Day on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. However, over the years, as times have changed, States have begun to allow different options for voting to ensure that citizens had more access to cast their ballots. These different options include instituting early voting in some states and providing mail-in ballots for individuals who are unable to physically get to the polls. In 2020, voting is going to be dramatically different than it has ever been before. The worldwide Coronavirus pandemic has already impacted the way Americans participated in voting in the primary elections and will surely shape the way our nation participates in the election this November. What is important is to ensure that we, as voters with disabilities, have our own voting plans!post office box

If you don’t already have a voting plan, here are a few things to consider for the upcoming election and ensuring your vote counts:

1.Check to Make Sure You’re Registered to Vote & Update Your Address as Necessary

I’ve given this tip in a previous blog, but it is always worth repeating. The first step to ensuring that your vote will count is to make sure that you are registered to vote and that you know where to vote. Check out vote.gov to see if you’re registered to vote, if you need to update your address, and learn how to register if you are not already registered.

2.Decide How You Will Vote: Mail, Early Voting, or In-Person on Nov. 3rd

Mail

As a person with a disability, you may be strongly considering voting by mail this year due to concerns about COVID, and that is completely understandable. If this is your plan, you need to know that some jurisdictions automatically mailed out ballots to eligible mail-in voters this year, but other jurisdictions require voters to request the ballots. This means you may or may not have already received your ballot. If you want to cast your ballot by mail, it is critical that you get your ballot as soon as possible and mail it in quickly to ensure that it is received in time to be counted. The United States Postal Service explains more about the mail-in process on their website.

Early Voting
If you live in a state that allows early voting, this can be a great option if you feel comfortable with leaving your house, but you still want to minimize your contact with other people due to COVID concerns. The National Conference of State Legislators has created a great resource explaining what states allow early voting, the time periods for early voting, and how it works. I am planning on voting via early voting this year because I want to go in person, but I do not want to expose myself to many people, and I feel that there will be less people at the polling site I go to if I vote prior to Election Day. Remember that every early voting site should be accessible and have accessible ballot marking devices, so if you’re waiting until Election Day to vote because you need an accessible machine, you don’t need to! Your early voting polling places should have these machines too!

Voting In-Person on Nov. 3rd

If you plan to go to cast your vote in person on Election Day, be sure that you know what time your polling place opens and closes so that you are able to plan to get there in time. Also, remember that if you experience an access barrier to voting at your polling place, you can contact the National Disability Rights Network to get connected to a Protection and Advocacy organization in your state to learn about your rights and your legal options. You can also file a complaint about inaccessible polling places with the Department of Justice.

3.Be Sure to Sanitize and Have Your PPE!

Whether your casting your vote by placing your mail-in ballot in the mailbox or heading to a polling station for an in-person vote, be sure to include sanitizing and personal protective equipment in your voting plan! If you’re mailing in your ballot, wash your hands after you put your ballot in the mailbox. If you cast your vote in person at a polling station, bring your mask and hand sanitizer with you, as well as any other personal protective equipment you need in order to feel safe.

Once you’ve got your voting plan in place, all you have to do is follow it! Remember, your vote is your voice, and your voice matters in our nation’s democracy.

Stephanie Woodward is an attorney who is passionate about seeking justice for marginalized communities - and has an arrest record to show for it. As a proud disabled woman and civil rights activist, Stephanie is committed to making the law work for all oppressed people. She is the founder of Disability Details, where she provides resources on Disability Rights, access, and life.