Why Long Voting Lines Are Actually Indicative Of Something Other Than Patriotism

Read between the lines.

A staple of an election in the United States is the super long line of voters waiting to cast their ballots. While photos of these long lines usually serve as a symbol of Americans' love of democracy, they actually are the most visible symptom of an easy-to-resolve problem.


Dr. Jason Johnson, a political science professor at Morgan State's School of Global Journalism and Communication, frequently writes about the impact of voter turnout. On Saturday, Johnson tweeted an important message about the reality of long lines of voters.

"There is nothing inspiring about pictures of long lines for people to vote," Johnson tweeted. "It's actually an indicator of municipal failure."

As of Monday, Johnson's tweet has received over 13,000 retweets.

Johnson is correct that long lines are consequences of a flawed voting system — and it's especially troublesome in African American and Hispanic communities. One report from the last presidential election found that precincts in minority neighborhoods were systematically deprived of the resources they needed to make voting operate smoothly.

To alleviate long voting lines, many states offer some form of early voting or in-person absentee voting for people to cast their ballots. Research shows that early voting boosts turnout by 2 percent to 4 percent, particularly in African American and Hispanic neighborhoods. Early voting also improves poll worker performance and increases voter satisfaction.

As of 2016, there are still seven states that do not permit any form of early voting.

The easiest solution to shrink long voting lines would be to expand early voting options in all 50 states. Another option would be to follow the lead of states like Washington, Oregon and Colorado by providing all-mail voting to citizens.

But to completely eradicate lengthy voting lines, the U.S. could make Election Day a federal holiday so that people can vote without the fear of missing work. More importantly, the U.S. must ensure that voting precincts with significant minority populations receive full resources — including more machines and poll workers — ensure voting runs more smoothly.

With these changes, long voting lines could become a thing of the past.

Cover image via Gemenacom/Shutterstock.com



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