News Column

Voter Study: Hispanics, Blacks Wait Longer to Vote

April 9, 2013
voter lines

Blacks waited nearly twice as long as whites to vote in November's U.S. election and Southeast voters waited longer than most others, a university study finds.

For most voters lines at the polls were relatively short, Massachusetts Institute of Technology political science Professor Charles Stewart says in a study, "Waiting to Vote in 2012," published in the Journal of Law & Politics.

"Two-thirds of voters in 2012 waited less than 10 minutes to vote, and ... only 3 percent of voters waited longer than an hour," he says, basing his information on the Survey of the Performance of American Elections, the Cooperative Congressional Election Study and county election websites.

The average wait in November actually fell to 13 minutes from 17 minutes in November 2008, the study says.

Florida's voters generally waited the longest, an average of 39 minutes, while Vermont's voters waited the least, less than 2 minutes, Stewart says.

Other states with wait times longer than 20 minutes were Maryland at 36 minutes and Virginia and South Carolina at 25 minutes each, the study finds. The wait time in Washington, D.C., was 36 minutes.

"The greatest times tended to cluster in the Eastern Seaboard, especially in the South, with wait times diminishing as one moves west," Stewart says.

Among those who waited longer than an hour, the average wait was 110 minutes, a minute longer than in 2008, he says.

"Urban voters waited longer than rural voters, early voters waited longer than Election Day voters, and African-American and Hispanic voters waited longer than whites," he says.

Indeed, no individual demographic difference stood out as much as race, he says.

"Viewed nationally, African-Americans waited an average of 23 minutes to vote, compared to 12 minutes for whites; Hispanics waited 19 minutes," the study says.

The study finds little variation when looking at other demographic categories.

The average wait time for voters with household incomes less than $30,000 was 12 minutes, compared with 14 minutes for voters with household incomes greater than $100,000, it says.

"Strong Democrats waited an average of 16 minutes, compared to an average of 11 minutes for strong Republicans. Respondents who reported they had an interest in news and public affairs 'most of the time' waited an average of 13.2 minutes, compared to 12.8 minutes among those who had 'hardly any' interest," the study says.

Stewart suggests there is no "magic bullet" to fix the long-line problem in areas where it exists.

"Intuition suggests that long lines, where they exist, might be mitigated through remedies such as better allocation of resources, the deployment of more modern technologies such as electronic poll books, or the use of larger polling facilities that can accommodate crowds better. But, the sad reality is that we simply do not know where to start in making things better," he says in the study.

After the election, President Barack Obama established a bipartisan commission to study ways of improving voting efficiency and reducing long wait times at the polls. The commission is expected to deliver a report in six months.

Source: Copyright UPI 2013

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