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BPC, Election Administrators Partner to Collect First-Ever National Data on Voting Lines

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Washington, D.C. – The Bipartisan Policy Center, in partnership with the Polling Place of the Future Project of the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project, today announces a nationwide effort to measure Election Day lines at polling places around the country. BPC will collect unique data from every polling place in multiple jurisdictions on an hourly basis throughout Election Day.

This data will help to diagnose the causes of long lines at the polls, predict where they may happen in advance of elections, and develop tools to allow election officials to swiftly allocate resources to the precincts most in need.

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) set a broad goal that no voter should wait more than 30 minutes to cast a ballot, and urged states and localities to take action to meet that target. BPC has taken on the task of advocating for and implementing the PCEA recommendations and is focused on addressing long lines at polling places across the country.

“President Obama, on the night of the 2012 election, decried the unconscionably long lines that voters had to endure at some polling places just to exercise their right to vote. In the years since, our commission and others have been working to address many of the underlying causes of lines at polling places,” said PCEA co-chair Bob Bauer.

But while states and localities across the country have undertaken reforms proposed by the PCEA, as well as by BPC, experts still don’t know where election lines form on Election Day.

According to PCEA co-chair Ben Ginsberg, “It is surprising to many Americans that we know very little about where and when lines occur on Election Day. The partnership between BPC and MIT to systematically collect line data from a large number of jurisdictions will provide this data for the first time, allowing election officials to make better, evidence-based decisions to improve the voting experience in future elections.”

Participating jurisdictions are expected to span 22 states and range in size from very small counties with roughly 600 registered voters to densely populated metro areas with more than 4.5 million registered voters. They include Chicago and Cook County, IL; Mecklenburg County, NC; Orange County, FL; Orange County, CA; and cities and counties representing a plurality of voters in Virginia. In total, BPC expects the data collection program to cover jurisdictions representing more than 45 million registered voters.

This effort will produce the largest and most in-depth dataset on voting lines ever, and will be implemented using a streamlined, easy to implement protocol in which jurisdictions will collect data, send it to BPC, and then receive analysis back. The dataset will be used by BPC and MIT to provide insight to the participating jurisdictions on where and why election lines formed.

Participating jurisdictions will be able to use this data to better allocate resources in future elections and to push state legislatures to provide additional resources to underfunded and ill-equipped counties and cities.

“We are committed to improving the voting experience for our constituents by using our resources where they are needed most,” said Toni Pippins-Poole, election administrator for Dallas County. “By showing where and when lines form on Election Day, this program will provide insight into where Dallas County needs to deploy additional resources to ensure voters do not have to wait in long lines to vote.”

“The Bipartisan Policy Center’s data collection project is an excellent example of experts, policy makers, and practitioners collaborating to improve elections nationwide,” said David Stafford, Escambia County, FL, supervisor of elections.

BPC expects to make aggregated data available in early 2017.

Learn more about the Election Day line data collection project.

KEYWORDS: BEN GINSBERG, BOB BAUER, PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON ELECTION ADMINISTRATION