What to know about early voting in DC, holidays during pandemic

Early voting in the District kicks off Tuesday, and D.C. offered guidance for those headed to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want people to know that they should be wearing a mask when they go, and that they should have a plan,” D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said at a Monday news conference.

WTOP has a voter guide with a look at who’s on the ballot.

Nesbitt added that social distancing is going to be a key component of in-person voting.

“People are going to need to be prepared to be mindful of how they’re keeping 6 feet apart, of how they’re going to be practicing good community hygiene,” Nesbitt said. “Having that hand sanitizer on hand, if they need to touch their face or grab a snack while they’re waiting, all of those things are going to be critically important.”


Nesbitt said that if you aren’t feeling well, stay home, and use one of D.C.’s ballot drop boxes instead of going in person to an early voting center.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser urged residents to take advantage of all six days of early voting ahead of Election Day, on Nov. 3.

“Plan. You have a whole week,” Bowser said. “But don’t wait until the last day.”

Bowser said she plans to vote this week, “probably” on Wednesday.

You can find a list of early voting centers online. Centers are open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

As of Oct. 22, more than 120,000 ballots have been received, according to the D.C. Board of Elections.

Bowser also commented on security measures being taken in D.C. for election night.

“We have been working on how to keep the District safe for many weeks, if not months. It’s not lost on us that we have been a magnet for a lot of national attention and some negative attention,” Bowser said, adding that the city will make sure D.C. police have the resources needed.

“Our Department of Homeland Security will help in how we have our emergency operations set up for that night.”

Holidays during the pandemic

Bowser said that she doesn’t want to see the holidays turn tragic for families that are celebrating.

“We just want everybody to start to plan and make sure that what should be a fun holiday gathering doesn’t turn into a tragedy for your family,” the mayor said.

“Always consider your most vulnerable family members when making plans. And if you choose to host the in-person holiday gathering, keep the group as small as possible. And remember to practice social distancing, and ensure that everyone wears a mask.”

Bowser warned that people should not let their guard down, even among family members.

“It’s very important that everyone wear a mask who’s outside of your immediate household,” she said.

When it comes to Halloween, D.C. has a list of what it considers to be “high-risk” activities, which includes traditional door-to-door trick or treating. (And bobbing for apples is, obviously, out.)

WTOP has a guide for trick or treating in the D.C. area.

For Thanksgiving, Bowser suggested a small dinner with household members, hosting a virtual dinner with extended friends and family using video technology, and watching sporting events, parades and holiday programs at home.

Travel should be avoided, according to D.C. And Bowser said mask usage needs to be observed.

“It may feel unusual wearing masks around your guests,” Bowser said. “While it may feel awkward and uncomfortable, we know that that’s the best way that we can take care of each other. We will remember that this pandemic will get on the other side of it, and we’ll be able to have fantastic events and years to come.”

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

DC coronavirus numbers

D.C. reported 45 new coronavirus cases Monday. The total number of cases stands at 16,812.

No new coronavirus deaths were reported. To date, 642 District residents have lost their lives.

Track the District’s data online. Below are maps of cases by ward and neighborhood.

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Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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