University of South Florida

Get out the vote! And vote safely.

COVID-19 has prevented access to many things, but voting in the General Election this November is not one of them.

From a medical perspective, there are a few important things to consider as you plan how you will cast your ballot. “First and foremost – wear your mask!” said Charles J. Lockwood, MD, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine.

“Aside from planning how you will vote to avoid crowds, wearing your mask and remaining more than six feet from other people are the two strongest preventative measures you can take,” Dr. Lockwood said.

In Hillsborough County, election officials are taking steps to keep both voters and election officials and staff safe at all voting locations, including wearing masks and social distancing for any voter lines that form and from the voting booths. Here’s more information about those efforts in a video from the Supervisor of Elections.

“A degree of apprehension is understandable, but election officials have taken careful measures to protect voters and their poll workers,” Dr. Lockwood said.

In Hillsborough County, there are three ways to cast your vote: early voting, vote by mail, and in-person on election day (Nov. 3) at your polling place.

Mail-in voting is likely the least risky way to vote from an infectious disease perspective, Dr. Lockwood said.

“Simply drop it in your nearby secure U.S. Postal Service mailbox and your vote is on its way,” he said. “You can also take your mail-in ballot to the Supervisor of Elections locations and place it in the secure, designated curbside ballot boxes – so there is no real need to stand in line or even get out of your car.”

These locations and more information about voting by mail can be found here.

For early voting, many locations throughout Hillsborough County open Oct. 19 to Nov. 1 and could be an in-person option that has few crowds.

“If an early voting site looks busy, come back another time,” Dr. Lockwood said. “These sites are open for 13 calendar days from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., so voters will have ample time and opportunity to visit these locations when there is plenty of spacing and limited crowding.”

More information about early voting and the many locations around Hillsborough County, including many public libraries, can be found here.

And for voting on Nov. 3 election day, Dr. Lockwood notes that this is more of an unknown. Polling places aim to have safety precautions in place, so even with crowds, lines and voting booths will be socially distanced.

Having an election during a pandemic is uncharted waters, Dr. Lockwood said.

“We are living through a generational event that has transformed in our country in ways previously unthinkable,” Dr. Lockwood said. “But how lucky we are to live in a nation where our voices are still heard and every vote still counts.”

Three ways to vote:

Early Voting: October 19 – November 1, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Vote By Mail: We begin mailing out Vote By Mail ballots on September 24, and voted ballots must be in our office by 7 p.m. on November 3. For more info, including drop off locations, visit.

Election Day: November 3. For more info.

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