Maryland Research Provides Tool to Reduce Voter Wait Times

Researchers at the Schaefer Center for Public Policy published a report featuring the results of a simulation of voting wait times in Maryland during the 2012 election. 

The simulation was used to prepare summaries for all of Maryland’s 46 early voting centers and 1,850 Election Day precincts, educating election administrators about the length of lines and wait times every half-hour throughout the day.

Tracking voter wait times systematically across polling places is an ongoing challenge for election administrators, and Maryland’s simulation is an excellent new tool for anticipating staff and resource needs that could lead to shorter waits. Pew’s Elections Performance Index—using data from the Survey of the Performance of American Elections—estimated that Maryland had some of the longest waits in the country in 2012, an average of 29.2 minutes, up from 24.5 minutes in 2008. 

The Schaefer Center report found that early voters experienced longer delays than Election Day voters and that jurisdictions with longer ballots were more likely to experience long lines at the polls.

Election administrators can prepare for some of the factors that contribute to long waits, such as ballot length. Other variables—the timing of voters arriving at the polls, for instance—are less predictable, but attention to historical trends in voter arrival patterns can help administrators allocate machines and personnel at the polls to minimize lines.

This research was completed on behalf of the Maryland State Board of Elections in response to a legislative mandate.

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