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The Margin: Last-minute midterm Election Day tips: Where to vote, when polls close, hotlines to report voter intimidation and more

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Election Day is here, and as Americans head to the polls — and Republicans and Democrats fight for control of Congress — some people have plenty of last-minute questions about their voter registration, their polling locations, what they need to bring with them to vote, who’s on the ballot and more. (Indeed, Google search queries for voting-related questions such as “where do I vote” and “can you vote without a voter registration card” were spiking on Tuesday morning — and similar questions were climbing the day before the midterms, according to Google Trends data.)  

Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there to make sure your voice is heard today. Here’s what voters need to know. 

How to vote, where to vote and checking that you are registered to vote: 

It’s not one-size-fits-all. Every state makes its own rules on how to register to vote, and each state regulates when and how to vote on Election Day in its own way. 

But there are websites that can help. The National Conference of State Legislatures is one such landing page with links to resources, as is the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (scroll down to “Resources for Voters.”) Sites including Vote.org and USA.gov also have links on checking your voter registration, finding your polling place, checking whether there are voter ID requirements in your state, and more. You can also check your local election website for the information that you need. 

Your local election site can give you more information about who your local candidates are, what these candidates stand for, as well as what other ballot measures you will be voting on in your state. Voters can also find their local polling places here.

What’s more, 22 states and Washington, D.C., have implemented same-day registration as of 2022, which allows any qualified resident of the state to register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time. The National Conference of State Legislatures has links to states with Election Day registration, state resources and verification procedures here. 

And remember: while there are some exceptions for military personnel overseas using absentee ballots by email or fax, you cannot vote online or by text on Election Day, the FBI says. 

Can I still register to vote?

While many voting registration deadlines have passed, 22 states including Washington, D.C. allow for same-day registration. That allows any qualified resident of the state to register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time. The National Conference of State Legislatures has links to states with same-day registration, state resources and verification procedures here. 

You can probably cast a provisional ballot if you run into problems. 

What if you can’t find your name in the voter registration record, you don’t have your ID on you (if it’s required — many states don’t need one) or there is some other question about your eligibility? Don’t just turn around go home. Federal law allows you to cast a provisional ballot — aka a “challenge” or “affidavit” ballot in some states — which is a way for people to vote when their eligibility to vote is in question, which ensures that all voters are allowed to participate in the election. 

Now, the rules of provisional ballots also vary by state — and Idaho, Minnesota and New Hampshire do not issue provisional ballots. But in almost every state, the provisional ballots are kept separate from the other ballots until after the election. Then in the days after the election, a board of elections or election officials determine whether the voter was eligible to vote, and whether the ballot is to be counted as a regular ballot.

What if you want to report voter intimidation and suppression, or other issues at your polling place? 

Watch out for voter intimidation, which can include someone aggressively questioning voters about their citizenship, their criminal record or other qualifications, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) explains, or spreading false information about voter requirements — such as saying you must speak English to vote (not true) or that you need to pass a test to vote (also not true.)

You can call or text national, nonpartisan Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683). They also have voter helplines in other languages, including: 

Spanish/English: 888-VE-Y-VOTA – NALEO Educational Fund

Arabic/English: 844-YALLA-US – Arab American Institute (AAI)

Asian Languages/English: 888-API-VOTE – APIAVote & Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)

The FBI also encourages voters to report any suspected instances of voter suppression — especially those received through a private communication channel like texting — to your local FBI field office or at tips.fbi.gov.

Know your other voting rights — polling places must account for voters with disabilities, the elderly and voters who don’t speak or write English well. 

The American Civil Liberties Union also has tips on knowing your rights on Election Day. For example, if you are a voter with a disability, your polling place must be fully accessible to older adults and voters with disabilities, meaning every polling place must have at least one voting system that allows voters with disabilities to vote privately and independently. A machine can read the ballot to you, for example, if you have vision impairments or dyslexia. 

And if you are a voter who has difficulty reading or writing in English, you have the right to receive in-person help at the polls from a person of your choice. The ACLU has more information here.

When do the polls close?

Poll closure times vary by state on Election Day. Here is what time each state closes its polls this Tuesday (all times Eastern.)

7 p.m. EST: South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Indiana (some polling locations close at 6 p.m.) and Kentucky (some polling locations close at 6 p.m.)

7:30 p.m. EST: North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia

8 p.m. EST: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., and Florida (some polling locations close at 7 p.m.)

8:30 p.m. EST: Arkansas

9 p.m. EST: Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Kansas (some polling locations close at 8 p.m.), Michigan (some polling locations close at 8 p.m.) and Texas (some polling locations close at 8 p.m.)

10 p.m. EST: Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah

11 p.m. EST: California, Washington, Idaho (some polling locations close at 10 p.m.), and Oregon (some polling locations close at 10 p.m.)

12 a.m. EST: Hawaii

1 a.m. EST: Alaska

It’s important to note that voters who are still in line at polling locations when those locations close are still eligible to vote, so voters should stay in line even if the location has technically closed.

What do I need to vote?

Like many voting procedures, voter ID laws vary by state; 35 states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. But many states — including New York, North Carolina, Illinois and Pennsylvania — don’t require any identification if you have voted there before.

Voter ID restrictions by state can be found here.

See also: What midterm election results mean for the stock-market bounce, according to Morgan Stanley’s Wilson

Can I vote online?

No. While there are some exceptions for military personnel overseas using absentee ballots by email or fax, you cannot vote online or by text on Election Day, the FBI says. 

When will we know election results?

Election results will preliminarily come in when polls close on Tuesday night. It’s possible that results for which party will have political control over the House of Representatives will be known on Tuesday, but Senate control may not be determined until December due to a possible runoff election in Georgia.

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