National: The first step to fixing long lines at the polls? Knowing where they happen. | The Washington Post

Horror stories about people standing in long lines to vote started even before Election Day this year, with reports of massive waits at early-voting locations. But new technology and research could help give officials the information they need to figure out how to make elections run better next time and one day help them respond to problems at polling places as they happen. There’s remarkably little detailed data about how long Americans wait to vote, according to electoral experts. They say that’s a big problem because fixing long lines at the polls is practically impossible without knowing where they actually happen. Previous research has generally shown longer waits in urban areas and for minority voters. But much of that data comes from media reports or surveys, according to John Fortier, the director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Democracy Project. “Even administrators that run large counties often don’t have a handle on what’s going on at all at their polling places,” he said. In fact, many precincts do not have systems to track long lines, let alone prevent them, Fortier and other election watchers said. But that’s starting to change.

For example, poll workers in Georgia’s Fulton County used a mapping platform called ArcGIS to organize estimated wait times and share them with voters on its website for early voting and Election Day this year. Fulton workers estimated wait times by handing select voters a time-stamped card when they got in line and collecting it once they reached the front, according to Rick Barron, director of Fulton County’s Department of Registration and Elections. Once an hour, the workers entered the estimates into the system, which automatically updated the information online.

The same workers who handed out cards to Fulton voters also counted the total number of people in line for research that Fortier is working on, Barron said.

Fortier’s group and academics from the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project teamed up for a more extensive project that analyzes areas with long lines. They worked with jurisdictions that represent more than 20 percent of all registered American voters this election to collect data, such as line length, total check-ins and the number of voting machines per location.

Full Article: The first step to fixing long lines at the polls? Knowing where they happen. – The Washington Post.

Comments are closed.