Image Credit: Monica Godnick for The Campus Trainer
Over 4 million acres burned in California. More than 210,000 Americans died as a result of a global pandemic. Five hurricanes struck the country. Half a million citizens protested across the nation against systemic racism. Members of a militia planned to kidnap the governor of Michigan. These are only a few of the events that took place in the United States this year. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, it is safe to say that 2020 has been a peculiar election year compared to previous ones.
The presidential election is less than a month away, and members of the community express feelings of insecurity about voting due to the fact that we are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, safe voting options exist.
If you are a student at UMD and confused on how to vote, the TerpsVote Coalition has your back. “TerpsVote mainly encourages students to vote and helps students who are new to the process get their vote in,” said freshman TerpsVote ambassador Nicole Diaz-Mackay.
Early by mail Mail-in voting, or absentee voting, refers to casting your ballot by sending it through the mail. This method is the safest form of voting in terms of coronavirus transmission. Maryland has already mailed an absentee ballot application to every registered voter. You have to fill out the application and submit the request to your local election office. The local election offices must receive this application by Oct. 20. Once the application is received, your ballot and voter oath document will be sent to you. Both the ballot and voter oath must be mailed back to the local election office by Nov. 3 2020.
Lainey Morris, a freshman nutritional science major, plans on visiting her home in Potomac, Maryland, and mailing her ballot from there. “This election is so important. I am happy I was able to participate without having to risk my health,” Morris said.
Every state conducts mail-in voting differently. It is important to find out whether the state you live in requires an absentee ballot application and when the deadline is to request and mail back a mail-in ballot.
Early by drop off If your ballot was mailed to you and you prefer to drop it off somewhere instead of mailing it in, Maryland provides multiple drop-box locations. These drop-boxes will be open until Nov. 3. Before dropping it off, make sure to seal your ballot and voter oath inside the reply envelope that was sent to you. The drop-off locations in Maryland can be found here.
Early Voting in person If the city or town where you live has a lower incidence of cases, or if a situation does not allow you to vote by mail, there are safe ways to vote in person. The state of Maryland doesn’t require a photo ID unless you are a first-time voter. Early voting starts Oct. 26 and ends Nov. 2. For the safety of voters, people are required to wear masks and maintain 6 feet apart. There will be an early voting location on the UMD campus! The Xfinity Center will be one of the polling places for Prince George’s County. Early voting centers in Maryland can be found here.
Election Day Voting in person Voting in person on November 3, Election Day, has the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19. If you are in the high risk category for COVID-19, it is best to try the mail-in options first. However, voting in person can still be safe. Just like early voting, make sure to wear a mask properly (covering your chin and nose) and to stay 6 feet away from others. You can look up the location of your polling place here. Diaz-Mackay recommends registering with the university’s address if you haven’t registered to vote and live on campus. The deadline for voter registration in Maryland is October 13.
If you are registered to vote outside of Maryland, you can go to https://howto.vote/ to find more information on the requirements your state has in order to vote by mail or in person.
Gabrielle Ada, a freshman business major, said our generation needs to take advantage of our ability to vote: “Voting gives us the power to shape our nation based on who we choose to lead it.”
Image Credit: Image used with permission from TerpsVote