WASHINGTON — It's been an unusual year and with that, an unusual election season. From mail-in voting to breaking down final election night results, there's plenty to get answers to.
Our Verify team reached out to the experts, from local election officials to the government voting resources, to bring you up to speed.
Let’s start with a rapid-fire round on your rights as voters.
Here are some of your rights as a voter
Are you allowed to use your phone inside the voting booth?
This is a maybe, because it depends on where you live. While some states allow for electronic devices like phones, others like Maryland and Kentucky have banned phones inside polling places. So you’ll need to double-check with your state guidelines.
Can you still vote if the voting machines are down?
While this is an unlikely scenario, we can verify that, yes, you can still vote by requesting a paper ballot.
Can you change your response if you make a mistake on your ballot?
Yes, you can change your response before submitting it. You have the right to request a new ballot.
Hopefully, you’re registered to vote already. But what if you encounter an unexpected issue with your registration the day of?
Can you still fill out a ballot if you’re not listed as a registered voter?
We can verify that yes, you have the right to request what’s called a provisional ballot. This ballot will be set aside and your registration status will be checked by election officials. If everything seems legit, your ballot will be counted like normal.
Next, you've probably seen videos of long lines snaking around polling places.
So can you still vote if you’re in line when the polls close?
Verified: Do not leave! You have a legal right to vote, and as long as you're physically in line to cast your vote before closing time, you are allowed to cast your ballot.
If someone does challenge any of the rights we just covered, there are voter protection hotlines, like the Election Protection Hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE), that can help.
You can even submit a complaint to the Department of Justice at 1-800-253-3931.
Have more questions about how to fill out your ballot and how to track it? Check out our voting special below:
Now that you know what to expect at the polls, let’s move to election night itself.
When will election night results be finalized?
With tens of millions of people voting by mail and different ballot deadlines per state, will we have complete results on election night itself?
That actually can’t be verified one way or the other, and here’s why.
Traditionally, if a candidate is projected to win 270 of the electoral votes, then the other would concede and it's all said and done late Tuesday night or super early Wednesday morning.
But that's not likely this year, with a record-breaking number of people voting by mail. Almost half of the states will still be accepting ballots that are sent by mail during a small window after Election Day, as long as they are postmarked properly.
This means it could be a couple of days before results are finalized in swing states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, who can't begin counting mail-in ballots until the day of the election. Other states who can process ballots before Election Day or have earlier deadlines could have projected results sooner.
Remember, while results may come in later than usual, that does not mean we can’t trust them. Every ballot must go through a certification process to make sure your vote is counted.
Can candidates claim victory before final results are in?
No law prevents a candidate from going on social media or giving a victory speech before results are called and certified. But just because a candidate claims victory, it doesn’t mean we’re done.
Our sources for this answer include The National Conference of State Legislators and the National Archives.
The next step in the election is the Electoral College, which doesn’t meet until Dec. 14 when electors from each state cast their votes. Those votes are then tallied up by Congress on January 6, and that’s when the decision is made official.
Now, VOTE! It’s your right and duty as an American.
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