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How to stay safe at the polls as early voting opens

Monday marks 15 days until election day. Hundreds lined up here in Florida for the first day of early voting. But, with the pandemic raging on, how can you stay safe while casting your vote.

Alex Seger says she’s voted in every single presidential election since she registered, so this year is no different. But how she’s voting this year, could change.

“This year I’m going to do the mail-in ballot, but I’m going to drop it off in a drop off box,” Seger said.

She concerned about the spread of the coronavirus since the lines have been long so far. “I know the lines are super long and crazy. I don’t want to be around people,” said Seger.

“Anybody around you could have the virus, and there’s a large amount of asymptomatic spread,” said Dr. Bernard Ashby, a cardiologist in Miami.

While voting is a right, it should also be done in a way that makes you comfortable.
“Voting is our right, but in these unique times, we have to be prepared to cast our votes in a way that makes us most safe and comfortable,” said Dr. Mona Mangat, Allergist and Immunologist in St. Petersburg.

For some, that may mean voting by mail. But for other’s who are uncomfortable voting by mail, health experts say you should have a plan for voting in person.

“We can find ways to make voting safe in person by keeping lines as low as possible in the polling places, and keeping lines outside,” Roger Shapiro with Harvard’s School of Public Health said.

“Bring your own pen, wear your mask, shield, you hand sanitize as soon as you get in and get out, you don’t talk to anybody, and just do your thing – I would say it’s relatively low to moderate risk activity,” Dr. Mangat said.

Because while casting your vote is important, so is staying safe. “The more we practice safety, the greater our chances of reducing risk of infection,” said Dr. Ashby.

If a voter does decide to bring their own pens, either blue or black ink will work.

Health experts also say the ideal polling location would be open-air because ventilation is key.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Drew Hill
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