What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Giving Compass' Take:
• This report by the Bipartisan Policy Center — funded by Ford Foundation and The Democracy Fund — explores how reducing polling place wait times through increasing resources can improve the voting experience.
• How do long lines at polls disproportionally affect underserved communities? What can funders do to make sure that polling officials have the capacity they need to function properly?
• Here's the importance of getting youth involved in voting.
Long lines at the polls can undermine the voting experience, even to the point of discouraging people from voting. Long lines and the wait times that ensue are not only problems in and of themselves, but they can be symptoms of other underlying problems in the voting process. That’s why, after the 2012 election, President Barack Obama singled out long lines as a problem that the United States should fix and cited it as the first order of business for the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), which he launched in early 2013.
As soon as President Obama shone a light on the problem of long lines at polling places, it quickly became clear that little was known about polling place lines: where they occurred, how often they occurred, and why they occurred. However, the PCEA initiated a host of studies and collaborative projects that have helped fill in the knowledge gaps about polling place lines. This report summarizes many of these efforts and highlights the actionable knowledge they have produced with seven major takeaway points:
1. Lines at polling places can be studied — and brought under control — by using approaches and tools that businesses have been employing for decades
2. To effectively manage polling places and reduce lines, election officials must collect information about the number of people in line on a regular basis at every polling place in their jurisdiction.
3. Long lines can be reduced through best-practice management techniques and policies that encourage a smooth flow of voters in polling places.
4. Long lines are not the norm for most voters, but at a substantial fraction of polling places, voters wait longer than the 30-minute PCEA goal; and at a smaller but still troubling group of polling places, lines can stretch over one hour.
5. Lines can be caused by issues that are unique to a polling place or by more general problems relating to chronic capacity shortages.
6. Lines are longest on the morning of Election Day.
7. Longer lines are correlated with larger precincts; precincts unable to handle early morning lines; and precincts that are more urban, dense, and have higher minority populations.
Long lines and wait times at the polls are not only problems in and of themselves, but can be symptoms of other underlying problems in the voting process.