The One Thing the CDC Says Voters Shouldn't Do During Election Day

Experts warn against doing this when casting your vote amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people live and many activities have had to be modified to take into account new precautions amid COVID. And while Election Day in the United States is still about three months away, experts are already issuing safety warnings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released expansive guidelines surrounding the election, and they're specifically warning voters not to do this one thing: disinfect their voting machines.

"Special care must be taken with the electronic voting equipment and ballots," Amy E. Kirby, a member of the CDC's Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force, said during a teleconference on Aug. 24. "We encourage [poll workers] to put signs up discouraging voters from disinfecting the machines themselves."

This is because certain disinfectants—and disinfecting practices—can actually damage the voting equipment, Kirby says. She recommends that officials contact the machine's manufacturer so they can give "appropriate disinfection procedures for the equipment that's used in their jurisdiction."

Woman in rubber gloves using spray cleaner on counter, close up.

The CDC only recommends the use of disinfectants from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) List N, which is a list of products that have been found to kill the coronavirus.

However, not all of these disinfectants are safe to use on every type of voting machinery. That's why the CDC has partnered with the Election Assistance Commission to create a list of cleaning recommendations for the various types of equipment.

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The CDC is also pushing efforts to "minimize surfaces that are frequently touched by multiple people," Kirby says. For example, they recommend any documents that need to be reviewed, like photo identification, should be placed on a table for review instead of passed from person to person. And shared items like pens and ballot sleeves should be replaced with a single-use option if they cannot be disinfected between every use.

Kirby says the CDC encourages regular hand-washing and the use of hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol when washing isn't possible. For Election Day, the organization recommends the provision of hand sanitizer in multiple places throughout the polling location—but not in the voting booth itself.

"We do say not to put hand sanitizer at the actual voting station itself," notes Kirby. After all, hands still wet with hand sanitizer can damage electronic voting equipment, as well as smear the ink on paper ballots. And for more sanitizing recommendations from the agency, check out these 23 Cleaning Tips From the CDC You Need to Follow.

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