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Long lines and wait times at the polls on Election Day frustrate voters and make headlines. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) stated that no voter should wait in line more than 30 minutes to cast a vote—and that election officials should deploy resources accordingly. But making good policy decisions relies on the availability of good data.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Democracy Project partnered with Charles Stewart III, co-director of the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project, during the 2016 election on the first ever nationwide program to evaluate long lines at all polling places in participating jurisdictions. The program is simple: poll workers count the number of people waiting in line to check in at the top of every hour on Election Day. Those observations combined with total turnout numbers yield accurate wait times by polling place.

The data gathered come from jurisdictions that included more than one out of every 10 voters on Election Day. Participating jurisdictions numbered 88 from 11 different states and more than 4,000 individual polling places.

Each participating jurisdiction receives an analysis of the data to better understand when and where polling place lines occur. With this data, election officials can make evidence-based decisions about how best to deploy resources during the next election.

For more information about the program, please view the video and watch our April 2018 event. 


BPC and MIT believe that measuring lines each hour at every polling place should be a universal best practice of election officials. We are expanding our program in 2018 and invite election officials from jurisdictions of all sizes across the country to join our effort to improve the voting experience in America.

There is no cost to local election officials to participate in this program.

If you have questions or to sign up your jurisdiction to participate, please submit your contact information in the form provided here, or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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