Voting Experience in a Pandemic

BY: Delia-Rose Constantine ’21

November 3 – the day that the fate of our country for the next four years is decided. The pandemic has made it more difficult to get your hands on toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies, but the effect the pandemic will have on voting is unknown.

To be eligible to vote in Texas you must be a United States Citizen, a resident of the country where the application is submitted, are at least 17 years old and 10 months old at the time of registration and are 18 years old on Election Day, are not a convicted felon and have not been declared by a court, exercising probate jurisdiction, to be totally or partially mentally incapacitated.

Registering is relatively simple. The virtual Voter Registration Application is available on the Texas Secretary of State’s website. The form asks for basic information such as date of birth, mailing address, and Texas Driver’s License number or Texas Personal I.D. number.

This application cannot be submitted online, though. It must be printed out, signed and either mailed or hand delivered to your county election office. I chose to hand deliver my application to guarantee that it arrived at the right place and within the appropriate amount of time. When I visited, the office observed all COVID-19 protocols, wearing masks, having very few people in the entrance, enforcing masks and the six feet rule, etc.

If it is safe and a possibility, try to deliver the application by hand. This ensures that the voter is entered into the system by the October 5 deadline, avoiding the post office slow down fiasco and are able to receive a voter registration card in time to vote. If mailing in your registration makes more sense in terms of safety, be sure that the application is postmarked by October 5.

Unfortunately, six states require voters to have an excuse besides COVID-19 to be eligible to request a mail-in ballot. One of those states is Texas.

According to the Texas Secretary of State, “To be eligible to vote early by mail in Texas you must be 65 years or older, be disables, be out of the county on election day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance, or be confined in jail, but otherwise eligible.”

This means that voting in person is the only option for those in our generation and anyone else under 65. And before you head out, check to see if your polling location has not been closed and if there are any staffing shortages. The question now is: how does one stay safe at polling stations?

Consumer Reports says that an effective way to avoid crowds and long lines at polling station on Election Day is to participate in early in-person voting. In Texas, this begins October 13 and ends October 30.

If voting on Election Day is the only option, the next best choice is to try to vote during off-peak times such as early in the morning or in the middle of the day; toward the end of the day is when lines will be the longest.

In any case, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued special COVID-19 safety recommendations for voters, many of which are similar to the healthy behaviors you should practice during a trip to the supermarket: wear a mask; maintain at least 6 feet of social distance; cover your coughs and sneezes; use hand sanitizer often, especially after touching frequently touched surfaces (such as doorknobs and voting machines); avoid touching your face; and wash your hands thoroughly afterward,” said Consumer Reports.

All in all, show up for the country! If eligible, go vote and be a part of celebrating 100 years of women having the right to vote. Your vote matters so be sure to use it!

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