When Virginia voters go to the polls on Tuesday they have a lot to consider when making their selections. But one thing they should not worry about is their experience at the polling place, especially concerns about long lines to cast ballots. More than any other state in the country, Virginia is at the forefront of monitoring polling place lines and finding new ways to improve the voting process in the future. Virginia joined the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Data Collection Project in 2014 and again in 2016 to investigate lines at polling places to resolve any problems in the future. The new data below show that just a small amount of effort is needed to gather information that can be valuable to addressing the problem of long lines at polling places.
The task was simple. At every hour, election officials simply counted the number of voters in line and indicated the number of check-in stations available. Those two pieces of observed data along with the number of people voting allowed us to calculate accurate wait time estimates.
In 2012 according to data collected biannually in MIT’s Survey of the Performance of American Elections, more than 30 percent of Virginia voters reported experiencing a problem at the polling place, and at an average of 24 minutes, Virginians waited longer in line to vote than voters in all but five states. By 2016, after enacting many recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, only about 10 percent of voters reported experiencing a problem at the polls and average line waits were below ten minutes, according to our new data.