What's with these long lines?

The last week, the media in my country (the Netherlands) have been showing long lines for people who want to vote early. Yesterday there was a segment with people who had been queing for more than 4 hours. I thought these things only happened in third world countries! My question is: how come poelpe have to wait so long? Is it because a lack of resources that are made available? Also, is this normal in US presidential elections? Is is only a few places, or is it more common?

I say this with my own voting experiences in the backdrop, because I have never had more than 5 people standing in line before me, meaning I have thusfar always been in and out of the polling station within 10 minutes. Maybe other non-US dopers can share their queing/voting experiences.

Worst case scenario (centre of town, late morning): 15 - 20 minutes in and out.

Best (smaller polling station, late afternoon an hour or so before close of polls): I suspect my vote in a local by-election the other week had me in the building for 90 seconds or so.

The long queues amazed me as well. Longest queue I can recall here (vastly smaller population, mind) was about 8-10 deep, at the local church hall. Some years ago, though. Apathy has taken care of that sort of thing.

What you’ve been seeing are early voting lines. Most cities and towns have fewer polling areas for early voting than they do for the general election. For instance, here in Chicago you could go to any one of 51 polling places to vote early. I couldn’t find on quick search how many more polling places there will be tomorrow, but this is a really big city, so you KNOW there are going to be, I don’t know, hundreds? A lot more, anyway. Where I went to vote early was at a library 2 bus rides away, whereas if I had waited until Election Day, I would have just had to walk 2 blocks to a restaurant down the street.

That’s not to say there won’t be long lines tomorrow. Many places don’t have enough machines, either for lack of money or shenanigans keeping machines out of, um, certain areas (we saw a lot of that in 2004). I’m sure that will happen this year too, but the turnout is supposed to be massive, so even the best equipped areas will probably have long lines.

We’ll see. But yeah, it’s a problem.

A friend of mine in Roswell, GA (metro Atlanta) said it took him 3 hours to vote the other day. I’ve never waited more than 30-45 minutes (that was 2000). I’m allotting 2 hours for Tuesday.

Also, turnout for early voting has been massive. I was still searching around for polling station numbers and found a couple of early voting statistics.

In 2000, 16 percent of voters voted early.
In 2004, 22 percent of voters voted early.
In 2008, according to this page, about 27 million people have voted early.

Yeah, it’s really embarrassing. Individual states define the voting regulations. Here in California, we have unrestricted absentee voting which means you can vote by mail. I’ve been using it for a couple of years, and it’s really convenient. Most people I know have already voted. We don’t have “early voting” here which seems to be a completely waste of money and manpower. I mean, you have to man the polling stations which costs a significant amount of cash. I think every state should just go to absentee and traditional election day voting. I would like to see some web based system that allows confirmation of your ballot and your vote. It seems like a corrupt post officer could fuck with the absentee results if they so desired.

I am curious, why would someone stand in line for early voting? Why not just come back later when the lines are shorter? Why vote early at all?

Remember the US is a single news market. We have ~215 million eligible voters. In a few places in a few cities, there are long lines. So the whole country, and you in the Netherlands, get to see video of that.

As an example, my county has ~500,000 residents & ~150 polling locations on Election Day. Each can handle about 20 voters at a time, so they have a throughput of ~2/minute. For early voting, there is/was a single polling place for all 500,000 of us, and it has a thoughput of about 4 per minute.

A big issue in the urban/suburban part of US (ie about 90% of voters, but only 10% of the land area) is that people do not live near where they work. So even though the polling places are open from generally 6am to generally 9pm = 15 hours, a large fraction of voters must vote in either the first hour or the last 2, or else miss part of their work day. Missing part of the work day is not doable for sizeable fraction of the populace.

Using me as an example, if I was to try to vote mid-day on election day I’d have to be away from work for about two hours even if the actual vote process only took 10 minutes.
The same time-of-day issues obtain for early voting. I did mine last week but I had the freedom to show up at 9am, after the vast majority of people were already at work. It was just me & a bunch of retired people. I was in and out in 10 minutes. The poll workers told me the line was an hour long at 7:30am.
And that’s the real issue. For a big fraction (WAG 60%) of voters, there is only a very brief window to vote early in the day or late after work. As silly as it is to try to vote a whole country in one day, what we’re really tying to do is vote an entire country in one hour before work. And naturally, in those parts of the country which are budget contrained, we just don’t have the logistical wherewithal to take in that many voters that fast.

I didn’t have any wait at all when voting in Raleigh, NC.

Because that may be the only time you have to vote. Technically they have to let you out of work, but the reality is a lot more complicated. So say that on Tuesday you drop your kids off at daycare at 7, go to work, get off at 5, pick the kids up… the lines are crazy long at 6, the kids are starving, and you might have to wait until midnight or something.

It’s absolutely insane that Election Day is on a freakin’ Tuesday. That must have been the Republicans’ idea, because it really hurts the middle-class and working poor. College students too.

I voted early because I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing on ED, and I kept fretting that something would happen, I’d get sick or have a heart attack or get hit by a bus, before I could vote.

Election day has been on Tuesday since 1845, before the Republican party even existed.

Here is a thread from a few days ago about this exact topic. As others have pointed out, the problems with long lines are due to underestimated demand for early voting, which is only available in a small number of places in each state that has it.

If the lines for early voting are this long, imagine what it could be like on Election Day. Last time around, there was a good number of people who didn’t get to vote because they were still in line when the polls closed, IIRC.

Perhaps other people share your reservations about absentee ballots & simply prefer to show up in person. And would prefer their vote **not **be on the web! (Not everybody has good internet access. And some of us who do realize that computer-based systems are not foolproof.)

Distributing & counting absentee ballots also cost money. As would any handy-dandy computer system. If other states prefer “live” early voting–it’s not California’s problem. I’d rather be embarrassed by too many voters than by the usual apathy.

(I’ve got Tuesday off & will be trotting over to my precinct after morning rush hour.)

Except that the news are reporting this is widespread all over Florida and more the rule than the exception and I suspect it may be the case in other states.

It seems to me this is a convenient “poll tax” although in terms of time rather than money. Poorer people cannot afford to take time off work as much as those who are better off. It works conveniently in favor of one party and against the other. It is a shame and an embarrassment that many of the several United States of America have such a shoddy organization of elections.

ISTR that employers are required to grant employees up to three (?) hours of PTO on election day. Is this just in my head or does the law exist?

Theoretically, employers must let you vote. I work at a pretty decent place as far as time off goes, though, and we got a nastygram a few weeks telling us that we’d damned well better find a way to vote on our own time if we know what’s good for us.

I don’t see why we don’t just vote over the course of a week, Sunday to Sunday. Why not? Just make the news shut up about results until everybody’s done.

Really Not All That Bright writes:

> If the lines for early voting are this long, imagine what it could be like on
> Election Day. Last time around, there was a good number of people who didn’t
> get to vote because they were still in line when the polls closed, IIRC.

I believe the law everywhere is that if you’re in line at the time of the closing of the polls, you can vote.

You can wait in long lines and it can rain or snow. The lines are outside. The number of vote machines assigned to each district determines how fast you move. If they under assign certain districts they can cut down on voting participation. No bathrooms . Wait a few hours and it can be uncomfortable or impossible.