Yes, you can still vote even if polls close while you're in line. What to know tonight

Don't get out of line if the polls close when you're waiting your turn. You can still vote. There are several laws in place to protect your rights.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
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Katie Teague
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Yes, you have voting rights.

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As an American citizen, your right to vote in a federal election includes protections like being able to vote even if your polling location closes while you're in line, and protecting you from people who may try to harass or mislead you with false information. Voter intimidation is a federal crime, and you can and should report it.

For example, you may have someone illegally question your eligibility to vote or erroneously say that voting by mail leads to election fraud. There has been no evidence of coordinated vote-by-mail fraud, with fewer than 150 criminal convictions for the crime over the last 20 years.

There are many other rights you need to know about when voting in person at the polls -- here's how to find your polling place this election. We list them below.

Read moreElection night 2020: How to watch the presidential election returns tonight

If the polls close while you're in line, you still have the right to vote

If you're in line when the polls close tonight, you can still exercise your right to vote, as protected by state laws. For example, Kentucky's Secretary of State's site says if you are in line at 6 p.m. (when polls close), you will be allowed to vote. The California SOS site says "voters who are in line at the polling place at the time polls close are entitled to vote and must be allowed to exercise that right." Do not get out of line.

You can choose to vote by mail or in-person

You have the right to vote by mail or in-person. Others may try to sway you away from voting by mail due to the false rumors of mail fraud. The FBI has said, however, it would be "extraordinarily difficult" to change election results through vote-by-mail fraud and has seen no evidence of a coordinated effort to do so. Some states will count ballots that are postmarked into Tuesday evening (check with your state's voting website if you're unsure).

If you're concerned about your mail-in ballot, here's how you can track it.

You have the right to vote in private and not be intimidated

There's a reason why booths are set up across polling places -- to protect your right to choose who you're voting for. Don't let anyone convince you they need to watch you fill out your ballot -- even if it's a poll worker. If someone is interfering while you're voting, it's considered voter intimidation and your right to vote in private is protected under federal voter intimidation laws.

If this happens, let a poll worker know and then report it to the Election Protection Hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE) or the US Department of Justice voting rights hotline (1-800-253-3931). You should also contact your state board of elections. If someone attempts to inflict bodily harm, call the police.


You have the same rights no matter who you're voting for.

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You have the right to vote in your native language

Voters who do not wish to vote in English (e.g. English may be a second language) can receive assistance at the polls by bringing a friend or relative. Under the Voting Rights Act, some counties are required to provide bilingual assistance to voters in the language they speak. You may contact your county and request a ballot and informational material in your primary language.

Other rights you have

  • You can request a new ballot if you make a mistake.
  • You can choose to use a machine or paper ballot and switch to paper if a machine breaks.
  • You can vote early if your state allows it.
  • If you're not sure you're eligible, you're entitled to a provisional ballot, which will be counted if it's determined you're eligible.
  • Older adults and people with disabilities have the right to accessible polling stations and someone to assist them.
  • People with mental disabilities cannot be turned away or prevented from voting.

If you experience problems or want to double check your rights on election day, you can call the toll free numbers below, including in multiple languages.

Some people with felony records can vote

Depending on the state you live in and conviction, you may be able to restore your right to vote if it was suspended. In some states, people who are convicted of felonies lose their right to vote indefinitely depending on the crime, or they need a governor's pardon to vote again, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In other states, such as Maine, people convicted of felonies never lose their voting rights, even if they're incarcerated.

Most states restore the right to vote to people after they complete their sentences, according to organization Campaign Legal. You can check your status to see if your right to vote has been restored in the state you live in.

 Election voter information guide

Only vote once.

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You have the right to vote one time

Regardless of what you may incorrectly hear from others, you cannot vote more than once in the same election. Double voting is a federal crime that is punishable by fine and/or imprisonment. In addition to federal law, each state has its own set of laws against double voting as well.

Your rights are protected by two Acts

The Voting Rights Act of 1965

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a federal law that protects voters from racial discrimination. It enforces the 15th Amendment of the constitution, which states, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (also known as the Motor Voter Act) was enacted to enhance voting opportunities for Americans by making it easier to vote and maintain registration.

The NVRA also requires states to offer voter registration opportunities at all offices that provide public assistance and state-funded programs for persons with disabilities.

Who to call if you have a problem at the polls

If you encounter any issues or questions while voting at the polls, you can call one of these hotline numbers.

Election Protection Hotline:

  • English: 1-866-OUR-VOTE / 1-866-687-8683
  • Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA / 1-888-839-8682
  • Arabic: 1-844-YALLA-US / 1-844-925-5287
  • For Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog or Vietnamese: 1-888-274-8683

For more voting information, here's how to find your polling place and everything you need to bring to vote in person.