WHAT'S AT STAKE?
— This is the first election since last year's fraud-marred presidential vote and is considered a test of whether the government has instituted promised reforms and rooted out corrupt officials. The election will also be an indicator of the strength of the insurgency as NATO and Afghan forces work to secure polling stations in volatile areas amid Taliban threats.
— More than 2,500 candidates are vying for 249 seats in the lower house of the Afghan parliament, called the Wolesi Jirga. Terms are five years.
— More than 400 female candidates are running across the country. A quarter of the legislative seats are reserved for women.
— Anyone determined by election officials to have ties to militias or other armed groups is barred from running. More than 30 candidates were excluded for ties to armed groups.
— Most of the candidates are running as independents because of electoral laws that make it difficult to register political parties. Fewer than 40 candidates are affiliated with a party.
— There are 17.5 million registered voters, out of a population of about 28 million.
— Turnout is expected to be low, and election officials say they expect to be able to accommodate 11.3 million voters casting ballots
— Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. local time on Saturday. The election commission has the option to extend voting with a decree if needed.
— Individual polling station results will be posted outside each station when counting finishes. The tally will also be forwarded to a counting center in Kabul.
— Preliminary results will be released on an ongoing basis, with full preliminary results expected about Oct. 1
— Final results are expected around Oct. 31, following the resolution of complaints of fraud or misconduct
— About 280,000 Afghan police and soldiers will protect the more than 5,500 voting centers officially scheduled to open on election day, according to the Defense Ministry. NATO's 140,000 forces in Afghanistan are playing a supporting role, ready to step in if there are attacks and to provide medical evacuations and help transporting materials.
— At each polling center, voters will be searched for weapons and for multiple voting cards. The almost entirely male police force will be supplemented by about 5,000 female searchers recruited for the day, according to the Interior Ministry.
— There have been at least 19 election-related deaths, including four candidates, in the run-up to the vote. Observers recorded at least 220 incidents of election-related violence and intimidation across the country from July 15 to Aug. 25.
— Each voter must dip a finger in indelible ink when casting a ballot to prevent people from voting multiple times. The ink is supposed to last at least 72 hours without washing off, even with bleach.
— An election official at each polling station will make sure that voters are carrying only one voter card and that they are at least 18 years old.
— Ballots have been marked with serial numbers so they can be traced back to specific polling sites.
— Election officials have promised that no additional polling stations will be opened at the last minute — a move to prevent "ghost polling sites" that voters are unaware of.
Sources: The Afghan Independent Election Commission, the Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission, the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, the United Nations, Democracy International, NATO's International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan government.