Washington, D.C. – The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) today announced that it will be working in several counties to reduce polling place lines in next week’s midterm elections. Americans will go to the polls on Tuesday for the first federal election since President Obama charged the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), a bipartisan panel of local and state election administrators, election lawyers and businesspeople, to recommend ways to improve election administration so that eight hour lines at polling places are forever a relic of the past.
In January 2014, PCEA released recommendations calling for shorter lines and is now working with BPC to make those recommendations a reality. BPC is working with several large counties to begin to accurately and consistently measure their line length, to use online tools the commission made available to better allocate voting machines, poll workers and other resources efficiently to polling places, and to streamline voting processes.
During the 2014 midterm elections, BPC is working with Fairfax County, Virginia; Orange County, Florida; Seminole County, Florida; Richmond City, Virginia; and Richland County, South Carolina. BPC expects to add several additional partner counties before the 2016 presidential election.
“We were struck by the fact that there was no systematic information on where polling place lines occurred and how long they were,” said PCEA co-chair Ben Ginsberg. “We certainly heard of specific instances of lines, but we did not have comprehensive data.”
In several counties, BPC is partnering with MIT’s Voting Technology Project and other local universities to provide observation teams who document the layout and flow of the polling place, count the number of people in line at regular intervals and document how long a voter takes to complete each stage of the voting process.
In Fairfax County, BPC has also observed in person absentee locations, where eligible voters can go in person to cast an absentee ballot, and they will observe Fairfax’s Election Day command center. In Orange County, BPC has been observing early voting centers. In all the counties, BPC will analyze election data from the 2014 election to improve the allocation of voting machines and poll workers to key polling places.
”There is no single cause of polling place lines, but election administrators desperately need the data and analysis on which to base decisions to advance the voting process,” said PCEA co-chair Bob Bauer. “Our experience in 2014 will allow these counties to make substantial improvements before 2016, and we plan to offer these best practices to willing partner counties across the country as well.”