Long lines and wait times at the polls are a voting rights issue. During recent presidential election years, horror stories have emerged across the South and the country about voters having to wait in line for several hours to cast a ballot. While such extreme stories are rare, in 2013 a bipartisan commission decried the fact that some 10 million voters had to wait at their polling place for half an hour or more, arguing that “no citizen should have to wait in line for more than 30 minutes to vote.” Some states and localities do a better job of cutting down on wait times than others. A report released this month [pdf] by the Caltech/MIT Voting Project finds that geography — where a voter lives — is the single biggest factor in determining wait times. Drawing on two large election data sets, the report found “average wait times in 2012 ranged from 1.7 minutes in Vermont to 42.3 minutes in Florida — a difference of a factor of 25 between these two states.”
Southern states as a whole rank among the worst for voting wait times, with Florida, South Carolina and Virginia ranking among the bottom five. While having a higher number of voters in dense cities is a factor, the report notes that this can’t explain the differences between highly urban states like Florida and New Jersey, where the average wait time is five minutes.
Certain states also fare worse in multiple elections, pointing to deeper, structural problems in how elections are being run. Florida, Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia were among the worst in terms of wait times in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.
The Caltech/MIT study also echoed the findings of previous reports on the role of race. Overall, white voters enjoyed the lowest wait times at the polls, an average of 11.6 minutes nationally. The average wait times for African-American voters was more than twice that: 23.3 minutes.
Full Article: Voting Rights: How to prevent long lines at the polls.