October 31, 2014

GAO Report Examines Election Day Wait Times

With Election Day approaching, voters may be wondering how long they can expect to wait in line to cast ballots. For most jurisdictions, the answer, according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), is that such data do not exist.

GAO recently surveyed election administrators nationwide about Election Day wait times. According to the survey results, about 78% of local jurisdictions did not collect, receive, or have available information about polling place wait times for Election Day in 2012. Most of these jurisdictions (79%) indicated that the reason for not having the data was that lengthy wait times had not been an issue.

With relatively few jurisdictions having data, GAO asked survey respondents to estimate average wait times for Election Day 2012 at three points in the day: the first and last hour that the polls were open and lunchtime. GAO found that, depending on the time of day, (1) 45%-51% of the respondents estimated the average wait time to be between 0 and 10 minutes and (2) 5%-8% of the respondents estimated the average wait time to be longer than 20 minutes. Approximately one-third of the respondents were unable to estimate average wait times.