Election Day Long Lines: Resource Allocation

Long Lines at the Polls

Is there a correlation between election day lines and resource allocations?

Yes – and minority voters are suffering as a result (or quite possibly by design). Research recently published by NYU Law’s Brennan Center for Justice focused on an issue that received much media attention on election day 2012 – incredibly long lines at the polls.

In the study, unmistakable patterns emerged:

– Voters in precincts with more minorities experienced longer waits. This mirrors findings from two prior studies, suggesting a genuine problem that needs to be addressed. For example, in South Carolina, the 10 precincts with the longest waits had, on average, more than twice the percentage of black registered voters (64 percent) than the statewide average (27 percent).

- Voters in precincts with higher percentages of minority voters tended to have fewer machines. This is the first multi-state study to assess voting machine allocation by race, and the findings are consistent with two county-level studies. In Maryland, by way of illustration, the 10 precincts with the lowest number of machines per voter had, on average, more than double the percentage of Latino voting age citizens (19 percent) as the statewide average (7 percent).

- Precincts with the longest lines had fewer machines, poll workers, or both. In Florida, for example, the 10 precincts with the longest lines had nearly half as many poll workers per voter as the statewide average.

- There is widespread non-compliance with existing state requirements setting resource allocation. Both Maryland and South Carolina set certain requirements for what polling places are supposed to provide voters, but only 25 percent of the precincts studied in South Carolina and 11 percent of the precincts in Maryland complied with these requirements.

In early 2013, President Barack Obama convened a bipartisan commission to address the problem of long lines and determine best practices for local election officials. According to the commission’s findings, 10 million people waited longer than half an hour to vote in 2012. The commission concluded that no voter should wait more than 30 minutes, and issued recommendations for election officials to improve the casting of ballots. Almost two years after the 2012 election, however, policymakers have done little to prevent long lines from recurring. This study offers fresh data to guide reform efforts.

Take a look at the full study here and let us know your thoughts.

Do you anticipate similar wait times for voters in 2014? As always, we want to hear from you!

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