Voters in Florida waited far longer than those in other states to cast their votes in the 2012 election, hampered by long ballots and cutbacks in early voting options, according to a new report by congressional auditors. Voters in the state stood in line more than 34 minutes on average, significantly longer than ballot-casters did in any other state reviewed by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog. The shortest waits? Alaska, at just 1.4 minutes. Three others states had wait times about 25 or more minutes: Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina. But most of the others fell somewhere between five minutes and 20 minutes, on average. In Florida, the GAO estimated, 16 percent of voters waited 61 minutes or more to cast their ballots – tops among the states surveyed. “People should not have to stand in line for hours to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said in a statement.
The report was written in response to a request from U.S. House members, including Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat from Miami Gardens, Fla., who wanted to understand the factors that contributed to waiting times in the 2012 election.
“Today’s GAO report findings are not surprising – the reduction in early voting days and lengthy ballots led to extraordinary wait times,” Wilson said.
One of the main findings was that it was difficult to really document the problem: The Government Accountability Office estimated that 78 percent of jurisdictions did not collect the data that would allow them to calculate wait times, primarily because wait times weren’t seen as a problem; beyond that, the GAO said, “most jurisdictions did not have long wait times on Election Day 2012.”
While the definition of long wait times has varied by researchers and polling officials, for the most part most voting officials said they didn’t see a problem in 2012.