Election Day, once so far off it seemed abstract, is finally happening on Tuesday, and those who remember the seemingly interminable lines at the 2012 polls will want to know when is the best time to vote in order to avoid a long wait. While the addition of early voting in more states could help thin the crowds at polling places, there are now more than 200 million Americans registered to vote, according to Politico, so even half of that number is likely to cause backups in more populous areas.
For those who weren't able to vote early, it's best to avoid the busiest hours at the polls, which are pretty predictable. Most citizens are expected to vote on the way to or from work, or on their lunch breaks, so NPR recommends that voters stay away during the early morning, midday, and early evening, if possible. Late morning and mid-afternoon will be the easiest times to get in, but if you need to go later, don't let long lines scare you off; as long as you're in line when the polls close, you will be allowed to vote, according to ABC News. Just wear comfortable shoes, and maybe bring a book.
Voting hours vary by state, but most polling places are open for 13 hours, which will give the majority of workers ample time to get to the polls (see Ballotpedia's table for your local voting hours). However, if a double shift or long commute presents a problem, know that many states require employers to provide their employees with time off to vote, and some even require that the employee be paid for their time. The AFL-CIO has a detailed state-by-state guide. According to Fortune, some business owners are even keeping their businesses closed on Election Day in order to encourage their employees to vote.
Then there's the last obstacle to voting: child care. It's ironic, too, because one could argue that parents have more at stake in elections, given that they're shaping the world their kids will one day inherit. Parents of school-aged kids aren't necessarily off the hook, either, because many public schools are closed on Election Day as they turn their gymnasiums and cafeterias into temporary polling places. Fortunately, all states allow minors to accompany their parents into the voting booth, according to The Wall Street Journal, and it can be a great civics lesson for kids. The bad news is that some states do have limits on the number of kids allowed in the booth (and let's face it, physics kind of limits that, too), so if you can't bring the whole brood with you, make a plan to meet at the polls with a friend and take turns watching each others' kids, because this election is too important to skip. Also, if you live near a YMCA, some of the organization's branches are offering free child care on Election Day, according to USA Today. Yep, you read that right. Free. So contact your local Y to see if it does, and get out there and do your civic duty.