The excitement of voting can quickly fade if you show up to find long lines. Though polling places can vary wildly from place to place, when the majority of people head to the polls tends to stay the same no matter where you’re casting a ballot — and the best time to vote on Election Day probably won’t surprise you.
Polling places are generally open from about 7 a.m. to 8 p.m, depending on where you live. As you might expect, most people head to the polls either before work, during their lunch break, or after work each year, as NPR notes. That means anyone looking to breeze through without having to wait in line should try to arrive mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
Not everyone’s schedule allows for that, of course, but most states require employers to give people time off to vote. Many, including New York, allow for up to two hours of paid time off to go to the polls, while states such as Illinois guarantee the same amount of time off, but don’t require employers to pay for that time. If you live in a state with paid time off, it’s worth ducking out to avoid the expected voting rush. At least a dozen states don’t guarantee people time off to vote at all, however.
Even if you do everything in your power to avoid long lines, it’s still possible you’ll have to wait to cast your ballot. It helps to be prepared with a coat if you live in a cold climate, comfortable shoes, and snacks to tide you over. If you can’t go until the end of the day, you’re allowed to vote as long as you’re already in line when the polls close.
You may also be in luck if you forgot to register to vote this year. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia allow residents to register on Election Day, by the National Conference of State Legislatures’ count. Maryland and North Carolina only allow same-day registration during their early voting periods (not on Election Day), though registering on Election Day will be possible in Washington state beginning in 2019 (which isn’t much help this year). You generally need a current driver’s license or other photo ID in order to register at your polling place.
Political analysts predict the midterm election will produce some huge shake ups for those currently working on Capitol Hill. For starters, the analysis website FiveThirtyEight expects Democrats to win control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans keep their majority in the Senate. Women candidates are also expected to win big in the midterm election, potentially doubling the number of women serving in Congress, according to analysis from Politico and the Center for American Women and Politics.
Still, dozens of races are considered toss ups leading up to Election Day, so the outcome will largely depend on how many voters show up at the polls on Tuesday. If you want to optimize your time by skipping the lines, be sure to leave a few free hours in your schedule during normal working hours.