Planning to vote in person? Consider taking a bag of supplies to help you survive long lines

Like millions of Americans, I plan to vote in person on Election Day. I always vote in person. I treasure the “I Voted” sticker I get. My polling place is often busy, depending on the time of day. But I never have encountered what I consider long lines.

I realize this year could be different. 

Hearing about people in other states who have waited in lines for more than 10 hours in recent weeks makes me remember my old Girl Scout motto: Be prepared. So I started preparing a Voting Day supply list. If you plan to vote in person between now and Nov. 3, you should consider doing the same.

In-person voting likely will ramp up this coming week when many polling locations open for longer hours and on weekends. In addition, for those who’ve been meaning to vote early, time is running out.

To help voters in all those categories, my colleagues and I put together a three-part tips guide: 

  • What you should do before you go to vote.

  • What you should take with you.

  • How you should stay safe while you’re at your polling place.

Before you go:

  • Make sure you know where your polling location is and what hours it’s open. Look yours up here: https://866ourvote.org/ Or go to the website of the secretary of state office in your state.

  • Make sure what your state’s ID requirements are, if any. Some states require a driver’s license or state ID with a photo. Some accept a utility bill or bank statement in your name with your current address. Some don’t require any ID. Look up your requirements here: https://866ourvote.org/

  • Prepare a sample ballot or at least write down your choices for all of the local candidates and issues so you can fill out your ballot more quickly and limit your time inside the polling site. To get a list of candidates/ issues on the ballot for your community, go to: https://ballotpedia.org/Sample_Ballot_Lookup

  • Check the weather forecast so you can wear appropriate clothing.

  • Wear comfortable shoes.

  • Use the restroom right before you leave your home.

  • Don’t wear gear supporting a particular candidate or political cause. At least 21 states have laws against apparel-related electioneering, including clothes, buttons, etc., that could sway other voters. Besides possibly avoiding arguments with your fellow voters, this will ensure you don’t get turned away from your polling place if you can’t take off the item or cover up the words or image.

What to consider taking with you:

  • Photo ID, copy of utility bill or something else that meets any ID requirements in your state.

  • Face mask.

  • Your sample ballot or list of who and what you’re voting for.

  • A portable phone charger or two (fully charged), including your lightning or micro USB connection cord.

  • Food: Snacks, a sandwich, some fruit. Maybe take a box of granola bars to share with those around you who didn’t plan ahead.

  • Thermos of coffee and/or (hopefully reusable) bottles of water.

  • Hand sanitizer or disposable sanitizing wipes.

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

  • Tissues/paper towels.

  • Lightweight folding seat.

  • A book or reading tablet.

  • Earbuds to enjoy music or an audio book and block out any annoying conversations.

  • Sunglasses

  • Umbrella, if it may rain.

  • Ziploc sandwich bag for your phone in case it rains and you’re waiting outdoors.

  • Paper fan or cordless fan if temperatures will get warm.

  • Sunscreen.

  • Extra jacket, hat, gloves if temperatures will get cold.

How you should stay safe while you’re at your polling place:

  • Wear your mask the entire time you’re in line and while you’re voting.

  • Maintain social distancing of at least six feet -- or maybe more if anyone around you doesn’t have a mask on.

  • Don’t touch common surfaces such as door handles. If you must, break out your hand sanitizer.

  • After you vote with touchscreens or voting pens, use your hand sanitizer or wipes liberally before you touch any of your other belongings or get back in your vehicle.