A Non-Partisan Election Reform: Shorter Lines

Here’s an idea for election reform that everyone should be comfortable with: reducing the time voters spend in line at the polls.

In 2014 a bi-partisan Presidential Commission on Electoral Administration called on state and local officials to ensure that voters wait no more than 30 minutes to cast a ballot. As a voter who spent an hour or more waiting in line in the 2016 election, I would greatly appreciate any effort to cut the logjam.

Writing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, John Fortier and Donald Palmer with the Bipartisan Policy Center describe a nationwide study in 2016 of election lines. That study encompassed 17 Virginia jurisdictions representing more than 2 million registered voters, or nearly 40 percent of all registered voters in the state.

Our data shows that more than 80 percent of Election Day lines in Virginia occur before noon. Moreover, we found that steps taken by Virginia officials after the 2012 and 2014 elections to allocate resources more effectively did decrease the average wait times at the polls. In 2016, Virginia voters waited an average of less than nine minutes to vote — down dramatically from 24 minutes in 2012 and 28 minutes in 2008. This decrease is one of the largest in the country.

When equipped with the right data, local officials can make smart and informed choices about where and when to deploy resources on Election Day, designing a structure that works best for their unique situations. Until now, however, those officials were flying blind with little to no data to guide or back up decision-making.

It’s nice to know that our election officials are doing something right. I’m looking forward to a snappy, nine-minute wait in the gubernatorial election this fall.

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2 responses to “A Non-Partisan Election Reform: Shorter Lines

  1. of course what would it take to make that happen? more staffing and voter stations? what if the precinct was not big enough…or enough parking both of which is the case in many places…

    then the biggest problem is enough staff.. which is hard to attract because the hours are 5 am to 7-8 pm contiguous .. you cannot leave.. and you cannot work a partial shift… you must be there the entire time. That makes it dang hard to attract folks to staff..

  2. While I don’t like standing in line generally, standing in line to vote doesn’t bother me like standing in line in a grocery store. I think about all those people who gave up their lives protecting my ability to vote and I become more patient than normal.

    Larry’s point about volunteers is well taken.

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