Friday, October 23, 2020

Medicine With a Med Student: Vote, and Vote Safely! Part 1

Editor’s Note: Me&My Doctor is launching a new monthly series, Medicine with a Med Student, which features blog posts written exclusively by medical students studying to become physicians. In this first post in a two-part series on voting, the authors discuss how to vote safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on the authors, visit below.   

The 2020 election is here, and with early voting underway it’s important to vote – but very important to plan to do so safely – because we are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations have created guidelines about how to make voting safer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone needs to assess what level of risk they are comfortable accepting to vote and decide which voting method works best for them. Texas is offering two different ways to vote this year, including voting by mail or voting in person at a polling location. 

The deadline to register to vote was Oct. 5, so if you did not make this deadline, you will not be able to vote in the November general election. The deadline to request a ballot by mail is Oct. 23. You can check whether you are registered to vote.

Voting by Mail:

Texas allows voting by mail if you meet certain criteria but are otherwise eligible to vote, that is, if you are:

  • 65 years of age or older,
  • Sick or disabled,
  • Out of the county on Election Day and during the early voting period, or
  • In jail.

Voting by mail could be a safer alternative than voting in person because it doesn’t require you to be in confined spaces with other people. Remember to follow basic safety guidelines if you take your completed ballot to the post office to vote by mail, such as wearing a mask and washing your hands frequently. The same applies for people who hand-deliver their completed mail-in ballot at a county drop-off location rather than mailing it.

The U.S. Postal Service is encouraging everyone to plan ahead. Mail your ballot at least seven days before Election Day (Oct. 27). The last day to mail your ballot is Tuesday, Nov. 3 (must be postmarked by 7 pm).

Voting in Person:

Voting in person is the other option for voting in Texas. There are two opportunities to vote in person: voting early or voting on Election Day (Nov. 3). Either option you choose, physicians and other medical experts recommend these public health guidelines to keep you safe:

  • Bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you in case there is none available at polling locations, and sanitize your hands before and after voting.
  • Bring your own pen, pencil and stylus.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Socially distance: Keep at least 6 feet of distance from others including standing in line, even though you are wearing a mask.
  • Try to vote during times when lines will be shorter, such as midmorning.
  • Do not disinfect the voting equipment yourself, as this could damage the equipment.
  • Cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow if you sneeze or cough, even while wearing a mask.
  • Stay at home if you are sick.

Early Voting – Oct. 13-30

Early voting might be a safer alternative than voting on Election Day because you might encounter fewer people at the polls, which decreases the chance of spread of COVID-19. In addition, voting early helps to decrease lines on Election Day, which helps keep other people safe on a day when millions of people are expected to vote. Early voting in Texas runs Oct. 13-Oct 30. Find out where to vote early and where to vote on Election Day. You can vote at any polling location in your county during the early voting period. 

Election Day – Nov. 3

Voting on Election Day, Nov. 3, often attracts more people, leading to longer lines. If this is the voting day that’s best for you, please make sure to follow the safety guidelines above. On this day, you might be able to vote at any polling location in your county or you may be restricted to voting in your precinct, depending on the county where you live. Make sure to confirm your polling location before you go to vote!

Voting is important in every election cycle, and it is possible to do so safely even with a global pandemic underway. It is essential to plan ahead and select the voting method that works best for you and is safest for you. If you have any questions, please contact your county’s election authority.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our voting series on

Sarah Miller
Medical Student at UTRGV School of Medicine
Chair, Texas Medical Association Medical Student Section Executive Council

Swetha Maddipudi
Medical Student at UT Health San Antonio Long School of Medicine
Vice Chair, TMA Medical Student Section Executive Council

Ryan Wealther
Medical Student at UT Health San Antonio Long School of Medicine
Reporter, TMA Texas Medical Association Medical Student Section Executive Council

Alyssa Greenwood Francis
Medical Student at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, El Paso
TMA Delegate Co-Chair, TMA Medical Student Section Executive Council

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