Exercising your right to vote is important, exciting, and moving — but sometimes, it also involves waiting in an incredibly long line before you get to the important, exciting, moving part. And unfortunately, long lines while waiting to vote seem like they're going to be a key theme on Election 2016 — voters in a number of cities have reported voting waits of an hour or longer, in both early voting and Election Day situations. On one hand, this is philosophically inspiring — it's great that so many people want to participate in democracy! — but on a practical and logistical level, it's a very major pain.
Before you do anything else, it's important to be aware of your rights, regarding long voting lines and voting in general: most states guarantee an employee's right to have paid time off from work to vote if they have to work the whole time the polls are open; and in many states, if you're waiting in line at the time your polling place closes, you're still permitted to cast your vote. And, no matter how long the line you're waiting in is, if you witness or experience voter intimidation, know that you can and should report it.
But once you have those logistics squared away, there's another, slightly less pressing issue to deal with: what are you going to do with yourself if you have an hour-plus wait at the polls? Sure, maybe you thought ahead and brought a book. And if you didn't yeah, you can get on social media. But what if you're not in the mood/ find it stressful/ forgot to mute that cousin of yours who thinks that voting is an Illuminati conspiracy? If you've already liked all the election selfies you feel up to looking at right now, check out a few other ways to entertain yourself while waiting to exercise your constitutional right.
1. Chat With Your Fellow Voters
This is, of course, not for everyone — some people (like me) find the idea of starting a conversation with a stranger to be terrifying, whether you're waiting on line to vote in the most important presidential election of our lifetime or waiting on line to purchase some french fries. Plus, sometimes, these conversations can take an unintended detour into uncomfortable territory if you find yourself chatting with someone who is outspoken about views that oppose your own.
But there is no law against talking to others while waiting in line to vote, so if you're feeling talky, compliment a fellow voter's pantsuit, or stick to safe topics, like the unseasonably warm weather, or how you are really not sure about this new season of American Horror Story.
2. Check Current Results
Like pretty much everything about Election Day, this one could be soothing or stressful — but if you want to see how things are shaking out for your candidate as you wait to cast your vote, you can see real-time voting results through Votecastr. The site can tell you how each candidate is doing in each swing state, and also allows you to examine specific variables, like seeing who young or older voters are going for. And, of course, accessing the New York Times website is free this week, so you can while away your wait time reading stories that are usually behind a paywall — which means you can read arts, business, or style pieces, too, not just pieces about the election.
3. Read Voting Stories
The internet is packed full of voting stories today — you can check some out on Twitter under #myvotestory and #myvotingstory. NASA's Tumblr explains how astronauts vote from space; you can also read some slightly less uplifting stories about people who didn't know they had the right to vote right here on earth.
And listen: I'm not going to pretend to know who you're voting for or how you feel about it, but IWaited96Years.com, a website full of pictures and profiles of women born before women were allowed to vote who are now voting for Clinton, absolutely destroyed me.
4. Get Answers To Your Lingering Campaign Questions
To say that this has been a confusing election season would be a drastic, drastic understatement. If you still have any questions about either candidate's claims while you wait on line, you can use the Settle It! app from Politifact, the nonpartisan political fact-checking site, to sort the truth from the talking points. And it's not just useful while you're in line; the app is also handy for short-circuiting the kinds of arguments that tend to pop up in families where different members are supporting different candidates, and a single dropped plate or pile of unfolded laundry can turn into a shrieking fight about immigration reform like that.
5. Learn About Election History
Why exactly do we vote through an electoral college, instead of just declaring the winner of the popular vote the president-elect? Hey, you've got nothing but time on your hands, so why not find out now? Now's also a great time to learn all sorts of facts about the history of electing an American president. For instance, did you know that several people have become president without winning the popular vote at all? Do you know about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president — in 1872, decades before women had a right to vote? Did you know that there were a number of very important African-American suffragettes? And did you know that although the 15th Amendment, which gave African-American men the right to vote, was ratified in 1870, violent intimidation, poll taxes, and other means of voter suppression meant that most African-Americans couldn't count on their right to vote until the passage of 1965's Voting Rights Act? (This year actually marks our first presidential election without the VRA since 1965).
6. Laugh At Some Jokes
You're allowed to take a few seconds off from thinking grim political thoughts today — seriously, you've earned it. You can check out some of SNL's best 2016 election season skits, as well as some of their classic political skits from the past; or a few of the top late night comedy bits about the election from Samantha Bee, Seth Meyers, and others. Funny Or Die has a full slate of election material today, and you can watch clips from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's "Hulu & Funny or Die Present Triumph's Election Special 2016" — which features the plastic canine hand puppet interacting with everyone from Amy Schumer to Gary Johnson — on YouTube. And if you are looking for some audio-only comedy as you take in your fellow Americans putting democracy into action, a group of 23 L.A. comedians — led by Brandie Posey, cohost of the Lady to Lady podcast — have recorded an album of all their 2016 election jokes called Burn This Election , with all proceeds from the album to benefit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Also, of course, I could not miss this moment to plug Bustle's I Want It That Way sex & dating podcast (which I co-host), which created an election special about relationships that cross party lines.
7. Watch Some Clips From "Hamilton"
We're all gonna get through this, OK?
Images: Shutterstock; Giphy