This article investigates the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on electoral participation. We study the French municipal elections that took place at the very beginning of the ongoing pandemic and held in over 9,000 municipalities on March 15, 2020. In addition to the simple note that turnout rates decreased to a historically low level, we establish a robust relationship between the depressed turnout rate and the disease. Using various estimation strategies and employing a large number of potential confounding factors, we find that the participation rate decreases with city proximity to COVID-19 clusters. Furthermore, the proximity has conditioned impacts according to the proportion of elderly -who are the most threatened- within the city. Cities with higher population density, where the risk of infection is higher, and cities where only one list ran at the election, which dramatically reduces competitiveness, experienced differentiated effects of distance.