'Fixing That': Lines at the Polling Place
31 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2013 Last revised: 13 Nov 2013
Date Written: July 20, 2013
“I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time. [Pause.] By the way, we have to fix that.” With that ad-lib on Election Night, 2012, President Barack Obama put excessive wait times at the polls back onto the policy agenda. Lines stretched to ten hours in 2004, eleven hours in 2008, and seven hours in 2012; while most voters’ experience was relatively speedy, the system is visibly failing others.
We need not wait any longer to ensure that we need not wait any longer. This short symposium piece adapts lessons from queuing theory, long applied to private-sector customer service and public-sector transportation problems, to present a brief overview of the possible means to adjust the three primary causes of excessive bottlenecks. This short review is offered not as an endorsement of any particular intervention, but rather as the ready elaboration of a policy menu for reducing wait time.
Keywords: lines, polling place, queuing theory, elections, wait times, polls
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