New Data on Lines at the Polls

The long lines at polling places have been a hot topic in election administration since November, and data presented at Pew’s Voting in America conference today sheds new light on this issue.

Charles Stewart III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shared preliminary results from the 2012 Survey of the Performance of American Elections. The Pew-funded survey focuses entirely on issues related to election administration and was first administered in 2008. This year, the survey asked 10,200 people nationally—200 in each state and the District of Columbia—how long they waited to vote during early voting and on Election Day, among many other questions.

The early numbers paint a picture which is not that different from 2008:

  • 36 percent of voters reported not waiting in line at all in 2012 compared with 42 percent in 2008;
  • 13 percent of voters reported waiting more than 30 minutes compared with 14 percent in 2008;
  • In 2012 lines on average were longer for early voting than they were on Election Day, with reported wait times of 20 minutes and 13 minutes, respectively. Similarly, in 2008, voters reported waiting an average of 20 minutes for early voting and 15 minutes on Election Day; and
  • As in 2008, voters in Florida, Maryland, South Carolina, and Virginia faced some of the longest average wait times in 2012, averaging nearly 50 minutes in Florida, more than 30 minutes in Maryland, and more than 25 minutes in South Carolina and Virginia.

Final and comprehensive data will be released in the near future.

 Listen to an audio clip of Stewart’s presentation about long lines: