Early Voting: Not the Answer to Long Lines

Supporters of expanded early voting seized on the long lines seen in some polling places in the 2012 general election as an opportunity. While supporters of early voting have used multiple policy arguments at different times to favor early voting, including the inaccurate claim that it increases turnout, the long lines proved to be a good opportunity to argue that early voting will help fix that problem. Experience tell us this is not the truth.

The fact is that we know states with high percentages of early voting still had long lines at the polls, some with limited early voting opportunities had very few problems with wait times. As the RNLA’s recent reportresponding to the PCEA, the President’s election commission, demonstrates, it is management problems, precincts with too many voters assigned to them, registration problems, and other issues that are at the root of long lines. Even with the most liberal and generous amounts of early voting, a majority of voters still choose to vote on Election Day. (It is called Election Day after all.)  Accordingly, election officials need to be able to handle the large volume of voters that will vote on that one day.  


One case study worth mentioning is in Arlington, Virginia, right outside of Washington, DC, with a high number of federal employees who commute to DC or live and work overseas. For obvious reasons these areas have higher than average levels of absentee voting. One Arlington County precinct had over 30% of its votes cast via absentee ballot, yet still had voters waiting in line to vote for over two hours. Similarly, Miami-Dade County had significant early voting opportunities and still had precincts with some of the longest, if not the longest, wait times to vote in the country.


RNLA’s report provide alternatives to relying on early voting, a solution that ignores the systemic problems that caused the lines in the first place. Let’s clean up our voter rolls, speed the check-in process, and better train our local poll workers and we will see that early voting is not necessary to ensure a smooth and pleasant voting experience for Americans.