Long Lines at Polling Stations? Observations from an Election Day Field Study

Election Law Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 3-17 (2010)

15 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2010 Last revised: 23 May 2014

Douglas M. Spencer

University of Connecticut, School of Law

Zachary S. Markovits

Pew Center on the States

Date Written: March 1, 2010

Abstract

This pilot study represents the first systematic attempt to determine how common lines are on Election Day, at what times of day lines are most likely to form, what are the bottlenecks in the voting process, and how long it takes an average citizen to cast his or her ballot. This study highlights the importance of evaluating polling station operations as a three-step process: arrival, check-in, and casting a ballot. We collected data during the 2008 presidential primary election in California, measuring the efficiency of the operational components of 30 polling stations across three counties. We found statistically significant, and meaningful, variation in the service rates of poll workers and voting technology. Our findings should better help election officials make important decisions about the allocation of critical resources.

Keywords: Election administration, queuing theory, long lines, voting

Suggested Citation

Spencer, Douglas M. and Markovits, Zachary S., Long Lines at Polling Stations? Observations from an Election Day Field Study (March 1, 2010). Election Law Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 3-17 (2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1408385

Douglas M. Spencer (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut, School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

Zachary S. Markovits

Pew Center on the States ( email )

901 E St NW
10th Floor
Washington, DC 20004
202-552-2157 (Phone)
202-552-2299 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/elections

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