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Among all the ways 2020 has proven to be out of the ordinary, it’s impossible to forget it also is a general election year. Making your voice heard, and making sure your vote is counted, is one of the most important ways we can participate in our democracy and contribute to our communities.
No matter where we live, where we work or where our personal politics lie, we all have one shared civic duty as citizens: making sure we can vote safely. As the U.S. contends with more than 6 million COVID-19 infections and over 185,000 deaths, voting has perhaps never been more complicated.
When it comes to safety off the job, the nation’s employers have always played an important role in addressing critical safety issues, from roadway safety to impairment issues, and most recently in response to COVID-19. As citizens, voting is a shared responsibility, so making sure employees have access to voting information and safe voting options is more important than ever this election season.
With rising virus cases and poll worker shortages, many states have expanded mail-in or absentee voting options. Employers can help employees navigate the risks and alleviate confusion by sharing deadlines for requesting vote-by-mail or absentee ballots, as well as early voting information in your community.
Employers also have a responsibility to allow employees scheduling flexibility so that everyone is able to exercise their right to vote on Election Day in person, if they so choose, and feel safe doing so.
Remind employees that if they choose to vote in person, they should follow all local directives regarding physical distancing, proper hygiene and the use of facial coverings to ensure not only their own safety, but the safety of poll workers as well.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis, 58% of poll workers in the U.S. were 61 or older and 27% were over 70 in the 2016 general election, meaning many of our poll workers are in a higher risk category for the coronavirus. In some areas, polling locations may be limited due to staffing shortages, forcing voters to contend with additional obstacles in casting ballots.
From the workplace to anyplace, let’s continue to keep each other safe. Election safety guidance from the CDC provides additional steps that poll workers and voters can take to protect themselves and others. Just as employers have taken the lead on issues such as contact tracing, testing, use of protective facial coverings and other safety measures, voting safety should not be overlooked. No matter where or how you plan to vote this year, make a plan to do so safely, and then help others do the same.
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