Atlantic Cities
Postcard

Where People Are Waiting to Vote the Longest

Where People Are Waiting to Vote the Longest
Reuters

Across the country today, voters are lining up to vote. But they're waiting much longer in some cities than others. While Milwaukee voters report submitting their ballots in under 10 minutes, in Detroit, voters are waiting upwards of two hours. The NAACP even advised Detroit residents to head to the voting booths with chairs and snacks.

Below, snapshots of wait times and polling stations in cities across the country:

Baltimore, Maryland: One to two hours

At one middle school early this morning in Baltimore, voters reported waiting about an hour to cast their ballots. At a nearby elementary school, one voter (a spokesman with Maryland's Attorney General's Office, no less) reported a huge line at 7 this morning. When he returned at 8:15, he faced an even longer line. Total wait time: Two hours, according to the Baltimore Sun. Officials attributed the lag to the "long ballot," which includes 20 local questions and seven state ballot initiatives.

"If you don't take time to understand it ahead of time, it's going to take 10-15 minutes when you're at the machine," Armstead Jones, board of elections director for Baltimore City, told the Sun.


Early voters line up outside a polling station in Silver Spring Maryland. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Dayton, Ohio: One to two hours

One Dayton voter might win for most damage inflicted while waiting to vote -- WHIO reports that a woman passed out while waiting in line. Lines are reportedly long across Dayton, and morning voting was delayed thanks to machine issues in some precincts.

Detroit, Michigan: One to three hours

Reported polling place waits are long across the city. Here's one anecdote from the Detroit News:

At Detroit's Henry Ford High School, hundreds of people were lined up in two queues waiting to vote. Detroit resident Gina Porter came out to vote at 5 a.m., which put her behind a couple hundred people.

She stormed out of the location at 8:20 a.m. without casting a ballot. "People are taking about 20 minutes on average," Porter said. "It's just too long. They need more booths because their workers are too slow."

 
Dozens of Hoboken polling stations were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, so volunteers stopped by community centers and schools over the weekend to prepare the polling spots for voters. Still, problems persisted. At one location, volunteers reportedly couldn't find the key they needed to open the voting machines. Other voters reported being sent to incorrect polling stations, and found themselves unable to cast a ballot.
 

“It was very disorganized," one voter told The Wall Street Journal. "You couldn’t tell who was running the organization."


People line up to vote in the U.S. presidential election at a damaged polling station set up for those affected by Hurricane Sandy in Hoboken. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Miami, Florida: 30 minutes to 3 hours

Though an estimated nearly half of all likely voters in the Miami metro area participated in early voting this year, waits were still crazy long at some polling stations in Miami. Edgewater voters reported waiting up to 3 hours. Others say they were in and out in under 30 minutes. One polling station in South Beach saw no line at all -- a measly 15 voters were filling out ballots inside when the Miami New Times dropped by. The reporters theorize:

Most neighbors around here are either sleeping off a night at Mansion, baking in the sun completely oblivious to the fact that it's Election Day, or are German DJs who can't vote in the States.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin: 10 to 50 minutes

When the polls opened at 7 a.m. this morning, at least 300 people were waiting to vote at one precinct on the city's south side. Long lines were reported at other polling places, exacerbated when voting machines broke down. But other spots were nearly empty. An adorable tidbit from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, at Fox Point Village Hall:

There were two lines for voters, one for those with last names A-L, and another for those with M-Z last names.

The M-Z line was nearly empty. The kid turns to the mother and said: "If you'd stayed married to Dad we could have been in that line." Then he shrugged.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: 45 minutes to one hour

Polling places across the city are reporting strong turnout. In one precinct, a quarter of the registered 2,500 voters had voted by 10 a.m., to the amazement of poll watchers. This despite dank, drippy weather. One voter explained how she copes to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

"Well, you know, you worry about the hair because you've got to go to work after this," said Gia Taylor, an elementary school teacher in St. Paul, "but you do what you have to do to get your voice heard. It's important to be here, even when it's cold and wet."

New York: 30 to 90 minutes


A security guard shouts directions at people waiting in a line wrapping around a building. (Chip East/Reuters)

Malfunctioning vote scan machines (being tried for the first time!) slowed the process even more. According to this New York Times story, it took one voter 45 minutes cast his ballot, after his first two attempts jammed the machine. At an elementary school on the Upper West Side, voters grew upset after being forced to wait on four different lines - one to determine their election district, one to get a ballot, one to fill said ballot out, and finally a line to get the ballot scanned.

Washington, D.C.: 30 to 90 minutes

It's the coldest day of the season here, but that hasn't stopped voters from coming out in droves, forming long lines at precincts around the city. At one station, a pastor handed out coffee, granola bars, and "The Noise of Politics," a "non-partisan prayer" by the theologian Walter Brueggemann, according to DCist. Our own Sommer Mathis waited 95 minutes before casting her ballot. 

Voters in at least one location faced a much shorter wait. In Southeast, volunteers helped some 88 prisoners cast absentee ballots. While convicted felons cannot vote while serving time, those awaiting a trial or convicted of a misdemeanor are eligible, according to the Associated Press.

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People wait in line to cast their ballots during early voting at a polling station in downtown Washington. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Top image: Gary Cameron/Reuters

Amanda Erickson is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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