Mental Floss

If the Polls Close While You’re Still in Line to Vote, Don’t Leave

Abbey Stone
Comstock Images/iStock via Getty Images
Comstock Images/iStock via Getty Images / Comstock Images/iStock via Getty Images

Election Day hasn't even arrived yet, and already nearly 100 million Americans have cast their votes for the next President of the United States. As of Monday afternoon, nearly 97 million people had already voted—which is more than two-thirds of the total number of voters who turned out for the 2016 presidential election. Which means that the polls are likely to be pretty full on Tuesday, November 3 as well. 

While the increased voter turnout is a wonderful example of democracy in action, it could mean that those people who have waited until Election Day to vote could be faced with some long lines and wait times—particularly considering that polling places will be enforcing some new policies to keep voters safe and socially distanced. So what should you do if you’re stuck at the back of the line when your polling place closes? You stay right where you are.

If you didn't take advantage of your state's voting time-off laws to cast your ballot during the workday (if your state has them, that is), there's a good chance you'll be caught in an after-work crush. But don't despair! As long as you are in line at closing time, you have a legal right to vote—so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, if someone does attempt to force you to leave, you are encouraged to call a voter protection hotline (such as 1-866-OUR-VOTE) or submit a complaint to the Department of Justice (1-800-253-3931).

These hotlines are also available to help you if you witness acts of voter intimidation or discrimination. As they say: If you see something, say something!

This story has been updated for 2020.