Voting During a Pandemic - Then and Now

Today, Americans who are eligible to vote in the elections are struggling to do so while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing. About one hundred years ago, your ancestors were experiencing very similar difficulties with voting due to the influenza pandemic.

Ballotpedia has details about the 1918 midterm elections. Voter turnout was low due to the influenza pandemic and because of World War I. Those that were well enough to go to the polls were required to refrain from crowding and to wear gauze masks. That type of mask was selected because it was the kind surgeons used in hospitals.

In Autumn of 2020, we are voting in the general election. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that 50% to 70% of all ballots will be cast absentee – up from less than 25% nationally in 2018. ABC News that at least 30 states and the District of Columbia made changes that would make it easier for voters to cast their votes from home. This included allowing more people to cast an absentee ballot.

Those who went to the polls to vote in person were expected to wear masks. Social distancing rules were in place and some polling stations had plexiglass between the voters and the poll workers. The purpose was to stop the spread of the virus.

In 1918, politicians found that typical campaign methods were not possible with bans prohibiting large gatherings in place. Rallies and speech campaigns were put on hold. Campaigning candidates sent direct mail and got press coverage in newspapers.

In 2020, the incumbent Republican president held a multitude of in-person rallies. People were asked to wear masks and socially distance. Most attendees chose not to do so. The Democratic candidate held some rallies where people drove into a parking lot and stayed in their vehicles. It was a form of social distancing. People honked horns instead of cheering.

Related Articles on

1918-1919 Influenza And Your Ancestors

Wear a Mask – Then and Now

Mid-Term 1918 Elections

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