How Can Seniors Vote Safely in a Pandemic?

Learn how to stay safe from COVID-19 while casting your ballot.

This election year, don’t let the risk of the coronavirus hold you or the seniors in your life back from voting. Older Americans have long been “the backbone of American elections,” as AARP reports, and there’s no need for that to change in 2020. There are safe ways to make your voice heard despite the pandemic. 

Read on to learn how to vote safely in the 2020 election so you can take any necessary steps to prepare well in advance. 

Request an absentee ballot

Voting with an absentee ballot is the surest way to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Here are the steps you need to take to do it.

Know your state’s regulations for requesting an absentee ballot

The regulations on how to vote vary by state. Some states automatically mail ballots to everyone, while others don’t view the pandemic as a permissible reason to vote by mail. Currently, two-thirds of all states don’t require people to state a particular reason for asking for an absentee ballot, while one-third do.

Even the states that don’t encourage the whole population to vote by mail due to the pandemic typically allow people over age 60 or 65 to vote by mail, however. (Mississippi is an exception, requiring people voting absentee to turn in their ballot in person before election day, as well as requiring notarization.) Learn about your state’s practices here so you can prepare accordingly.

Apply for your ballot

Submit your application for a mail-in ballot as soon as possible, as states may become flooded with applications. You can apply for your absentee ballot here—it takes about two minutes to fill out the form. Check the due date for when you need to apply for the ballot so you don’t miss it. Some states require you to apply for an absentee ballot 12 or 14 days before election day, for instance.

Learn what date to mail in your ballot by

Your vote only counts if you mail it in time, of course. Check your state’s rules for when absentee ballots need to be returned by so you don’t accidentally mail yours in too late.

Learn what precautions your polling place is taking

If you or the senior in your life are determined to vote in person, find out what your polling place is doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Will it allow for early in-person voting in the days before election day or permit you to turn in your absentee ballot in person during that period? The crowds may be significantly smaller at the polls during those times. Will it offer curbside voting? Will it require people to wait outside before voting, limiting the number of people who are in the space at any given time? Will it require masks and use glass partitions? Find out what safety practices it will follow so you can decide whether you would feel comfortable voting in person.

After checking your state’s requirements, you’ll know exactly how to make your voice heard (or to help the seniors in your life do so). Be sure to spread the word so others can benefit from your newfound knowledge!


AARP, “Will Older Voters Decide the 2020 Election?”

AgingCare, “Absentee Voting Information for Seniors and Busy Family Caregivers”

CNN, “Voting Safely: How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19 While Casting Your Ballot”

FiveThirtyEight, “How to Vote in the 2020 Election”

NBC News, “Vote by Mail Restrictions in Mississippi Leave Voters Frustrated and Confused”, “Absentee Ballot Deadlines”, “Request Your Absentee Ballot”

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