What you should do now to safely vote in California during COVID-19

There are steps voters can and should take now to ensure their own safety and participate in democracy.

Joe Ready

It’s been said so many times at this point, it’s almost cliché: the coronavirus pandemic has upended every part of our society. Every one of us is having to rethink every decision we make, and every interaction we have, in the context of risk: What’s the risk to my health, and am I risking the health of those around me?

While there’s certainly some risk in everything we do these days, we know that there’s also a spectrum. On one end, we know that large, sporting-event-type gatherings carry greater risk, while going for a walk in a local park with a mask on is comparatively safer.

In-person voting on Election Day is on the relatively higher-risk end of activities. That’s why states across the country have been scrambling since the outbreak began to adapt their voting systems to accommodate more mail-in or absentee voting, while maintaining sufficient and socially-distant in-person locations. With under five months until the November presidential election, state officials need to keep that effort going full steam.

Meanwhile, there are steps voters can and should take now to ensure their own safety and participate in democracy. All the noise and partisan fighting about voting by mail, especially at the national level, shouldn’t obscure the fact that in California, the solution is actually quite simple. 

Update or confirm your voter registration
Don’t wait to update your voter registration, especially if you’ve moved since the last election. Even if you haven’t changed addresses, it’s good practice to look up your registration info to make sure that everything is correct. If it’s not correct, your ballot or application will be sent to the wrong place.

Most states (39), including California, allow you to update your voter registration online which, besides being easier and faster, is obviously much safer in a pandemic. To update your California voter registration, go here.

Request your absentee ballot for November
All states allow some mail-in voting, but policies can differ dramatically. And in response to COVID-19, many states have changed or are considering changing their previous policies to accommodate more voting by mail. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in May that every registered voter would receive a mail-in ballot for the November general election. So, make sure your registration is up to date as soon as possible to ensure your ballot goes to the right place.

If you have to vote in-person, be prepared
While mail-in voting is by far the safest option, there are still many people who need to vote in person for one reason or another. If you need to vote in person, make sure you’re prepared.  Check the location of your polling place or vote center, and see if early voting is an option, because crowding and lines are less likely in the days before Election Day. And of course, wear a mask and practice social distancing when you do actually go to the polls to vote.

Stay up to date on changes
Things are changing rapidly by the day. The best way you can stay prepared to vote in 2020 is to be informed as best as possible. Check with your secretary of state for updates and changes to election plans.  

While many future plans are uncertain at the moment, Election Day 2020 on November 3 isn’t one of them. There are concrete steps you can and should take now to ensure your own safety and ability to participate in democracy.


Joe Ready