Election Day Guide

To avoid long lines, vote in midmorning or early afternoon

Voter entering voting booth

Win McNamee / Getty Images

Clearly, the main thing to do on Election Day is to vote. Unfortunately, voting can often be a confusing process. Here is a brief guide designed to answer some common Election Day questions.

Where to Vote

Many states mail out sample ballots weeks before the election. This document probably lists where you vote. You may have also gotten a notice from your local elections office after you registered. It may also list your polling place.

If you're still unsure of where to vote, call your local elections office or even ask a neighbor. People who live in the same apartment complex, on the same street, or in the same neighborhood usually vote at the same place. If your polling place has changed since the last general election, your elections office should have sent you a notice in the mail.

When to Vote

In most states, polls open between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and close between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.. Once again, call your local elections office for the exact hours. Typically, if you are in line to vote by the time the polls close, you will be allowed to vote. To avoid long lines, vote in midmorning or early afternoon, as polls are busiest in the early morning and evening hours when many voters are going to and coming home from work, notes the North Dakota secretary of state's office. To avoid potential traffic problems at busy polling places, consider carpooling. Take a friend to vote.

What You Should Bring to the Polls

It is a good idea to bring a form of photo identification with you, as some states require photo ID. You should also bring a form of ID that shows your current address. Even in states that do not require ID, poll workers sometimes ask for it. If you registered by mail, you will need to produce your ID the first time you vote.

You might also want to bring your sample ballot on which you have marked your selections or notes on how you want to vote.

If You're Not on the Registered Voter List

When you sign in at the polling place, your name will be checked against a list of registered voters. If your name is not on the list of registered voters at that polling place, you can still vote. Ask the poll worker or election judge to check again. They should be able to check a statewide list to see if you're registered to vote at another location.

If your name is not on the list, you can still vote on a "provisional ballot." This ballot will be counted separately. After the election, officials will determine if you were eligible to vote and, if you were, they will add your ballot to the official count.

If You Have a Disability

While federal elections are generally conducted under state laws and policies, a few federal laws apply to voting, and some provisions specifically address accessibility issues for voters with disabilities. Most notably, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, enacted in 1984, requires that political subdivisions responsible for conducting elections assure that all polling places for federal elections are accessible to elderly voters and voters with disabilities.

There are two allowed exceptions to the VAEHA:

  • In an emergency, as determined by the chief election officer of the state
  • When the chief election officer of the state determines that all potential polling places have been surveyed and no such accessible place is available, nor is the political subdivision able to make one temporarily accessible in the area involved

However, the VAEHA requires that any elderly disabled voter who is assigned to an inaccessible polling place—and who files a request in advance of the election—must either be assigned to an accessible polling place or be provided with an alternative means for voting on the day of the election. In addition, a polling official may allow a voter who is physically disabled or over the age of 70 to move to the front of the line at a polling place upon request of the voter.

Federal law requires that polling places be accessible to persons with disabilities, but if you want to make sure you will be able to vote, call your local election office before Election Day. Inform them of your disability and that you will need an accessible polling place.

Since 2006, federal law has required that every polling place provide a way for people with disabilities to vote privately and independently.​

Your Rights as a Voter

  • Equal treatment and opportunity to register and vote, regardless of race, religion, national origin, sex, or disability
  • Privacy—only you should know how you voted
  • Having your vote accurately counted and recorded
  • If you have a disability, access to a voting device you can use, along with appropriate assistance
  • Help in voting from poll workers if you ask for it
  • Courtesy and respect from poll workers, election officials, and all others at the polling place

You should also familiarize yourself with the federal laws protecting your rights at the polls and how to report potential violations of voting rights laws.

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Longley, Robert. "Election Day Guide." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/election-day-guide-questions-and-answers-3322062. Longley, Robert. (2023, April 5). Election Day Guide. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/election-day-guide-questions-and-answers-3322062 Longley, Robert. "Election Day Guide." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/election-day-guide-questions-and-answers-3322062 (accessed June 5, 2023).