What Happens If You’re In Line When The Polls Close? You Can Probably Still Vote, So Don’t Panic

Voters line up to cast their ballots at a polling station in Arcadia, California, on November 8, 2016. / AFP / RINGO CHIU (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images

Girding yourself to face the notoriously long after-work lines to vote today? I'm right there with you. But if you're worrying about what happens if you're in line when the polls close, don't stress out just yet. In many places, daunting wait times will not stop you from casting a ballot; local laws generally ensure that everyone still in line as closing time draws near will have the opportunity to complete their civic duty. That means you will be able to vote even if the poll workers are (undoubtedly) tired, and, yes, even if you are stuck at the very end of the line. 

There are enough things to worry about today (uh, like who's gonna be our next president?) without the crippling stress that you might also miss your narrow voting window. In fact, as Business Insider reports, your poll workers are by and large instructed by law to allow each and every person in line when the polls close to vote. "If you go to the polls when they are open, and you are a registered and qualified voter, then as long as you wait in line, you are entitled to cast your ballot even if the line is so long that you must wait until after the scheduled time for the polls to close," Ned Foley, professor at Ohio State’s law school, wrote for Medium. "It’s one of the most basic principles of electoral democracy." During early voting, some polling places were kept open as late as three hours after the scheduled closing time to accommodate those still in line (which has since turned into a point of contention with Trump). So never fear, by law you will get your chance to stand up and be counted. Cue a big sigh of relief.

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Most states have specific laws on the books protecting this right, outlining exactly how the last person in line is differentiated so there can be no quarrel about "rigged" voting procedure. If for any reason someone stops you from voting and you were in line before the polls closed, call the Department of Justice Civil Rights Department at 1-800-253-3931, or email them at voting.section@usdoj.gov. You may also submit an election complaint report via their website.

Poll closing times are determined on a state-by-state basis, and range from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time. Check out this breakdown to find out when your local polling place will close its doors tonight. If you live in one of the mountain states such as Montana or Utah, you will have plenty of time to finish up that last work project, grab a snack, and go rock the vote before polls close at a luxuriously late 10 p.m. Hey, not all of us are morning people, and I definitely don't judge if you'd rather brave a line snaking around the block, than attempt to wake up at 6 a.m. to miss the early rush.

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Just remember, when you walk to the end of that lengthy line, all these people showed up to have their voices heard. It means communities are coming together to vote. It's democracy in action. It's a big deal — so try and think of it as a good thing!  

Images: Getty Images; Giphy (2)

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