After the November election, we reported on long lines in a number of states. Now, a new report suggests that as many as 49,000 people in Central Florida did not cast a ballot because of extended waiting times.
Theodore Allen has been analyzing the impact of long lines at the polls since 2004. His analysis of Central Florida’s 2012 results compared precinct closing times, Election Day turnout, and results in the presidential race for all Lake, Orange, Osceola, and Seminole county precincts.
His review indicated that for every additional hour that a precinct stayed open past 7 pm–an indicator of line length throughout the day–turnout dropped by as much as 4.8%. Allen suggests that longer ballots (six pages in Orange County) likely caused longer lines which in turn suppressed turnout. Additionally, fewer early voting days probably contributed to longer wait times on Election Day. Many Central Florida voters waited in line for three or more hours after the polls officially closed.
Whatever the contributing factors, voters simply cannot be expected to set aside hours to cast a ballot. We need to focus on ways to improve access to the ballot, and can start by expanding early and absentee voting opportunities. Additional voter education can also help reduce the amount of time voters spend filling out their ballot. Let’s kick 2013 off right and resolve to eliminate long lines at the polls.