Although voter turnout varies with each election, jurisdictions should be prepared to allocate resources so that voting proceeds efficiently. Faulty election equipment and inadequately resourced polling places are the leading causes of long lines on Election Day. This can depress turnout at future elections, delay accurate vote counting and exacerbate inequalities in access to the polls. Recent research shows that in 2012, precincts with significant populations of voters of color had longer wait times than mostly white precincts, in part because of resource allocation problems.
The Commission said "election officials need greater access to industrial engineering tools that are regularly employed to help manage customer service queues." It advised that local election administrators utilize tools hosted by Caltech-MIT's Voting Technology Project, available for free use on its website. These included tools for poll worker management, as well as line and machine optimization.
No states examined in this report have formally or statutorily adopted use of these tools to assist them in effectively allocating resources, but we encourage states to utilize them as appropriate. As for machine allocation, Louisiana law sets the number of voting machines allocated to municipalities, depending on the number of registered voters in each precinct, 30 days before an election. In Michigan, state law requires at least one voting station for every 300 registered voters in each precinct. However, machine allocation alone is not a measure of success. Inadequate polling sites, lack of resources as simple as pencils, severely underestimated numbers of paper and provisional ballots -- and many other insufficient resources -- can lead to major problems on Election Day and in the past, have plagued many states surveyed for this report.
Election law expert Tova Wang has examined the problem of a lack of resource allocation standards, finding that "many states have no requirements at all regarding machine allocation, and in others those rules are extremely vague. Often the decision is left to the counties, and only some of them have any concrete, discernible formula for making sure there are enough machines, that they are distributed equitably, and allocated in such a way to ensure minimal wait times."
Wait times in some of these states are more severe than in others, but can be affected by inadequately resourced polling locations. Florida voters waited the longest to vote in 2012 -- an average of 45 minutes -- according to Pew's Elections Performance Index. Alaska had the nation's second shortest wait time to vote, at 3.4 minutes. Clearly, there is significant room for improvement, and we encourage local election officials to adopt tools to efficiently allocate polling place resources.
|FINDINGS BY STATE|