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Old 11-02-2004, 01:15 PM
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: UK
Posts: 3,362
How long does it take for a US Citizen to vote?

A lot of talk just now seems to suggest that voting in the US elections is a serious effort and drain on time. This is given as a reason why people may be put off voting.

How long does it really take on average? And what is most of the time spent doing? Why does this take so long?

I ask because from my experience of UK elections voting has always been within ten minutes travel of home (usually even on foot) and hasn't ever taken more than five minutes once arriving there.
Old 11-02-2004, 01:19 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Florida, USA
Posts: 20,187
It's going vary widely. It took me about 40 minutes af waiting this morning, with essentially zero travel time (the poll location was VERY close to home).

A coworker did "early voting" on Sunday and waited close to six hours!
Old 11-02-2004, 01:23 PM
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Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 6,313
Today it took me about 50 minutes after I got to the polling location. That was from around 9:00AM to 10:00AM.

I didn't think it was too bad at all.

Old 11-02-2004, 01:23 PM
Join Date: Apr 2000
Posts: 18,759
I just got back. I was gone for maybe 20-30 minutes, and most of that was spent finding a parking space and waiting in line for my ballot.
Old 11-02-2004, 01:23 PM
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Enwye Sea
Posts: 1,296
There are a couple of threads going at the moment in which people are discussing their voting experiences:

In GD: Poll watching: how long are the lines at your poll?

In IMHO: Kiss me, I voted

It takes some time in many cases for a variety of reasons:

- more than the usual number of people turning out to vote
- voters unfamiliar with/having problems with voting methods
- the number of local offices/referenda that people may be voting on
- of particular interest for this election, challenges to people's voting eligibility
- other general muck-ups in the process (machines breaking down, etc.)

In places where it is taking hours of waiting on line, it becomes a problem for folks who have not been granted time off from work to vote (not uncommon, I don't think).
Old 11-02-2004, 01:24 PM
Join Date: Oct 1999
Posts: 5,627
It took me about 20 minutes to vote this morning 5 minutes of waiting in line. In most states you have the option of voting by mail via an absentee ballot but you generally need to request one a few weeks in advance of the election.
Old 11-02-2004, 01:24 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: East Texas
Posts: 4,994
It varies wildly depending on district and what time you show up. When I showed up at my tiny rural district at 11:30, there was no line and I got to go straight in with no waiting - it took me about ten minutes to prove my registration, get signed in and stamped, and fill out the paper ballot with a number 2 pencil. While I was filling out the ballot, the lunch rush hit, and people who came in shortly after me had to line up down the hall, so their voting experience took much longer than mine. People in large cities with high voter turnout probably experience even longer waits at times, and the actual physical time it takes to vote would also vary depending on how the vote is registered (my paper ballot vs. computer ballots vs. big mechanical voting machines with levers and toggles).
Old 11-02-2004, 01:26 PM
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 23,421
I had to wait on line for about half an hour, after that, it was a simple matter of checking off my name in the voter list and flipping a bunch of levers.
Old 11-02-2004, 01:27 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Maryland
Posts: 3,785
I arrived at the polling station at 06:10am. The line for my district was already long; and for some crazy reason they split the line alphabetically; yet there was only one book that logged everybody, rendering the alpha-split stupid and needless.

Total time in the polling station was about 20 minutes.

My wife went around 10:30 and it was empty.
Old 11-02-2004, 01:29 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: On the level, if inclined
Posts: 13,233
My polling place opened at 7:00 am, I showed at 6:30. nce the doors opened I waited about 15 minutes for the 12 people in front of me to do their thing at 4 voting machines. I saw about an average of 4 minutes of action for an hour's worth of wait--and I was early. Folks who showed up at 7:00 am had a line of about 50 people, so I'd guess their waits to be about 48 minutes. And it's going to get worse as the day progresses and the procrastinators start showing up.

Luckily 1.5 - 2 million of us have nothing else to do today (like go to work).
Old 11-02-2004, 01:32 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: In the mountains
Posts: 7,939
I had to wait for about half an hour, but the actual voting took maybe two minutes. I was impressed; there was a line when I arrived and a shorter but still considerable line when I left. Turnout seemed really high.
Old 11-02-2004, 01:33 PM
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Enwye Sea
Posts: 1,296
Also, see this thread in the Pit: Polling place fuckup! I was turned away on my first attempt to vote

Aren't you sorry you asked, Futile Gesture?
Old 11-02-2004, 01:34 PM
Join Date: Aug 1999
Posts: 6,082
I vote in a wee rural district. Actually, two different districts vote at the same polling location, on opposite sides of the room.

I arrived at 10 AM and was out the door by 10:10. I was the 217th person to vote in my district.

No lines at all. The major delay was the little old ladies who were working the polls. Sweet as pie, mind you, but also half-deaf and half-blind. "The last name is Fries. FRIES. WITH AN 'F'. No, not Breeze, FRIES. F - R - I - E - S. Wait, wait, wait. . . flip back a page! There, that one. NO, not Frank, Fries, next line down!" And they had to find my name in two different lists; one I signed, and they copied my name from the other list onto a sheet of notebook paper.

Then we helped them find my husband's name, which is different.

I have no grounds to complain, however, as I did not volunteer. And they got the job done just fine.
Old 11-02-2004, 01:34 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: The Sunflower State
Posts: 5,485
Got to the polls about 7:05 am and there were already about fifty people in front of me. I waited about 45 minutes, voting itself took less than five. As I was arriving, I ran into a coworker who was just leaving. She got there a little before 7 and said there were only about a dozen people in line, but it got big real fast. And the line was just as long when I left as it was when I got there.
Old 11-02-2004, 01:38 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: San Francisco area
Posts: 16,104
Checking in from a San Francisco neighborhood:

Left home at about 7:45 AM.
Not even a five minute walk from home to the polling place.
Arrived at the designated spot and was second in line.
Waited about five minutes to be checked in, receive a ballot and wait for a voting "desk" to become available.
Another 5-10 minutes to get through the Federal votes, school boards and about 25 state and local propositions.
30 seconds to feed my ballots into the counting machine.
Less than five minute walk to the bus stop, where I caught my usual bus and got to work at the usual time.

Woo, that was tough!
Old 11-02-2004, 01:40 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Vermont
Posts: 9,848
It took me about ten minutes, including waiting in line.

We use optically scanned paper ballots, and it's pretty damned easy. Anyone who can't figure out how to fill in the right number of little ovals (they're not even that little) probably shouldn't be voting anyhow.
Old 11-02-2004, 01:50 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 6,556
No line here. I walked up, signed in (they didn't check my ID but the woman to the right of me was checked). It took a couple minutes to fill out the ballot and I was in and out in 5 minutes.

My co-worker waited in line in a small Wisconsin town for 1 hour and 15 minutes. She voted straight line ticket so her time actually voting was minimal.
Old 11-02-2004, 01:57 PM
Eve Eve is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 22,064
I got there at the crack of dawn and didn't have to wait in line, but we've had New Yorkers and New Jerseyites straggling late all morning with 2-hour line stories.

Then again, maybe they just slept in and are lying . . .
Old 11-02-2004, 02:00 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Himalayas & California
Posts: 6,766
My time actually doubled from the customary 5 minutes to 10 minutes! The extra 5 minutes was waiting to sign in the registry. There were 12 booths that were touchscreen machines, and there was no waiting to use them once I got the electronic voting card. What I had a problem with was that I never received a sample ballot from our county.....apparently, some were lost or never delivered to us, so I had to borrow one from the local Republican HQ 200 feet or so across the street.
Old 11-02-2004, 02:00 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,497
This morning I walked across the street to the polling place. Not much of a line, took about 5 minutes to sign my name on the voter registration sheet, get my ballot, and fill out the bubbles.
Old 11-02-2004, 02:13 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Suburbs of Chicagoland
Posts: 22,337
There are a lot of variables involved, really, as you've seen.
- Time of day (do you work regular hours and thus have to vote really early/late after work? Expect lots of other people to be in your same situation.)
- Level of motivation of people in your voting precinct (Back in college, a friend lived in a densely populated college student district, on a liberal campus, when there was a lot of motivation that year to vote out incumbent national, state, and local conservatives. She ended up waiting in line 3 hours to vote.)
- Number of "special needs" voters - if voters need assistance with voting due to eyesight, other impairment, not having English as their native language, that can hold up the line for other people.
- Method of verifying registration - how many people can be processed at once? Where I voted, only one voter could be verified at a time. This is because all of the eligible voters for that precinct had their info collected into a single flip-book, and each person had to be looked up in that one book. Since the book was bound by removable rings, I'm hoping that when it got busier, they split the book into sections alphabetically so that more people could be helped at once.

It took me 5 minutes to vote, and my voting place is on the same block as my house, so travel time was negligible.
Old 11-02-2004, 02:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Central VIC Australia
Posts: 1,927
Twenty-five minutes, with travel time - about half of that was driving and parking. I'd received a sample ballot, so I'd already researched out my choices. When I got there, there was no line for any of the poll workers (there were three of them, split by alphabet) I voted at 11:45 local, and the polling place was the hall of a Prsebyterian church.
There weren't any observers - just an older man who opened the door for me (which made me feel kind of odd - he was of an age and condition where I should be opening the door for him!). This county is largely Republican - I'm not sure about my particualr district, but given that there were a number of Republicans running unopposed for local office, I'd say that's a safe bet.
Old 11-02-2004, 02:20 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2000
Posts: 7,788
Touch screen, a couple minutes to actually go through the screens. I had to wait behind maybe a dozen people in line for one of 6 machines, IIRC.

Silicon valley - there were 14 screens to go through, with a couple selections on each. Mostly state and local referendums. With all the referendums, you sometimes get slowed up by people who are reading them for the first time in the booth, whatever voting method is used. They send out detailed voter information pamphlets, but human nature being what it is, some people aren't going to look at them until they are standing in front of them in the polling place.

On off presidential years, or for not-very-contested presidential races, you usually don't have lines.
Old 11-02-2004, 02:22 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 11,403
Polls opened here about 6 AM. I had a meeting at 8:15 so needed to be done early, so I arrived at 5:45 AM. There were perhaps 20-30 people in front of me in the line for my part of the alphabet. It took something like a half hour (once the polls opened) for me to get to the front of the line, then perhaps 2 minutes to get "signed in"; another 5-10 minute wait for a machine to be free, then another minute or two to get the deed done.

By the time I left at 6:40-ish, however, the place was *much* more crowded. Papa Zappa went at 10:50 AM, and it took him an hour and a half start to finish

In response to another thread (ID required): Here in Virginia, I believe newly-registered voters had to show some specific ID proving they're legal. That could consist of a driver's license, social security card, or a bunch of other things. Old-timers like me could either show that ID, or sign something saying "I'm legal, really I am!".

Fortunately they do *not* require the actual voter registration card, as the only one I could find was out of date.
Old 11-02-2004, 02:32 PM
Mod Rocker
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: N E Ohio
Posts: 40,418
My polling place in the township hall houses two (of my township's five) precincts (out in exurbia ). The line for the other precinct had at least 100 people in it when I walked in the door and I feared having to return later. (I was on my way to work.) Then I looked into the meeting room and saw that there were no voters at my precinct's sign-in desk. It took me about 30 seconds to get recognized and handed a ballot, about another minute to fill in the ballot (doube-checking to be sure I was not reading any issues incorrectly), and then 15 seconds to deposit my ballot and head for the door. I had to wedge my way through the other line line between the same two people I had passed entering. I have no idea how long they were going to have to wait, but at a minute per voter, (during my my minute-and-a-half, a couple of other voters in my precinct got ballots to fill out at the booths) it could have been more than an hour and a half.

I have no idea why my line was so much shorter unless the precints need serious rearrangement since the last couple housing developments were built.
Old 11-02-2004, 02:36 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: 21 20' N 157 55' W
Posts: 6,519
In and out in fifteen minutes.
Hmm, I do seem to be consistant!!

Old 11-02-2004, 02:43 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Posts: 4,133
Just curious, but is there a maximum time limit for the time you are allowed to take to cast your vote once you enter the actual voting booth ?
Old 11-02-2004, 02:44 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 933
I woke up at 6:30, got dressed, walked to the polling location, voted, walked home, and was eating Rice Krispies by 7:15. (And it would have been less if I hadn't had to wait outside the school with the dog while my girlfriend voted.)

In 2000, I was in a different district and it took me about twice that. I think it's down to the district, or possible even the polling station, and how well organized they are (# of booths, # of workers) compared to the number of voters.
Old 11-02-2004, 03:20 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: underpants
Posts: 19,743
Originally Posted by xash
Just curious, but is there a maximum time limit for the time you are allowed to take to cast your vote once you enter the actual voting booth ?
Here in Washington State, no, there's no time limit.

I was in and out in ten minutes. No line; walked right up to the precinct officer, signed in, got my ballot, and went to the booth. This was five minutes; he's old and slow. Another five minutes to complete the ballot: lots of issues, lots of time to carefully fill in the little bubbles with a crummy ballpoint pen.

No "I voted" sticker, either.
Old 11-02-2004, 03:30 PM
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Obamafornia
Posts: 404
10 minutes, including parking.

8:00 am - 6 "booths", actually just little stands with cardboard privacy screens so the person next to you can't watch unless they really want to, about 3 people in line ahead of me. 3 minutes to check in and sign the book, 1 minute to wait for the next booth to be empty, 3-4 minutes to mark the ballot (paper ballots, with a punch-ink voting pen that makes circles on the ballot. At least it's not a chad-style ballot anymore.)
Old 11-02-2004, 03:50 PM
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 5,391
My actual voting time was short, maybe 3 or 4 minutes. The big races were easy; we didn't have many local races at all; and most of the locals were judges who were running unopposed, so I didn't bother to fill in those bubbles. My line wasn't long, so the entire process took maybe 15 minutes (including the few minutes waiting for the poll to open!).
Old 11-02-2004, 03:51 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Southeast Michigan, USA
Posts: 10,338
Around 11 am the lunch crowd made it in, so my wait was about 20 minutes. No big deal -- today's a holiday so we can all go vote the way the union tells us (seriously).

Actual voting was maybe 1 minute. I'd already had a copy of the ballot, done my research, and just copied my answers from my sample to my real ballot.

No, I don't know everyone's names for the "small" elections, but I really did research them. People that vote for incumbants or nice-sounding names piss me off (unless that's who they really want).

I wonder -- this brings up another question. We all know that we can leave parts of the ballot blank if we just have no choice, right? Gosh, I hope so!
Old 11-02-2004, 03:52 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 10
Arrived at 5:50 am, polls opened at 6. Voted & back on the road to work at 6:08. Even got a sticker. One of the many nice things about living rural.
Old 11-02-2004, 04:07 PM
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 41,636
I had a conference call for work which I did from home this morning, so I voted at 9:45. My polling place is in the school across the street. No line at all, and they put in extra machines, so it took less then 5 minutes for 8 screens. I usually go before work, or after, and there are lots more people. I forgot my cheat sheet (always important for the umpteen propositions in California) but I remembered my decisions anyhow.
Old 11-02-2004, 04:21 PM
Join Date: May 2002
Location: SE USA
Posts: 404
It took me about 10 minutes this morning. Most of it involved reading and deciding on State constitution ammendments. This was about 0730 in a county ward and I was number 118 this morning. It was on the way to drop my son off to school, so the commute time was negligible.
Old 11-02-2004, 04:40 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Seabrook, Maryland
Posts: 3,045

Originally Posted by yabob
With all the referendums, you sometimes get slowed up by people who are reading them for the first time in the booth, whatever voting method is used. They send out detailed voter information pamphlets, but human nature being what it is, some people aren't going to look at them until they are standing in front of them in the polling place.
Sometimes they can be tricky. A political advocacy group got enough signatures to put a question on the ballot that would "reform" the local county council. The opponents of the measure put an additional set of questions on the ballot that neutralized selected sections of the reform proposal, if and only if it passed. So if you voted yes on everything, you got the reform proposal, minus all the reform bits. The sample ballot doesn't give you the background and motivations behind what's on the ballot. I found a League of Women Voters information sheet on the web that helped me decipher what the questions really meant.
Old 11-02-2004, 06:16 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Southeast MN
Posts: 5,680
I expected a long line (there was one the last time I voted, or maybe it was the time before). I even brought a magazine.

I arrived at the Elementary school, found a parking spot, went in the door where someone said voting in there (pointing to the gym). Found the right table (no line), signed in and got a slip of paper. I then went to another table where I got my ballot (again no line). Fill in the circle system (both sides of the paper).
Total time: about 10 minutes, but only becaise I triple checked my choices.

After depositing my ballot in the box (the counting machine is at the county seat) I asked the lady there and she said there was long line when the place opened but after that it has be steady but not super busy (950 votes out of 1275* registered voters in the precinct as of 4:50)

*MN has same day registration, 1275 is the # of RV as of 7AM today
Old 11-02-2004, 06:37 PM
The Turtle Moves!
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: SoCal
Posts: 48,551
5 minutes in line, two minutes of prayer, two minutes of voting, out the door in less than 10 minutes.
Old 11-02-2004, 07:06 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: NW PA
Posts: 1,748
From swing state territory (Southwest PA): Didn't take long at all. Avoiding the pesky party workers handing out their slates was the difficult part (for the record: this wasn't intimidation; it was just the usual waste of paper ). Two or three minutes to sign in (our octagenarians are pretty quick ) and then into the big ugly lever machine. I had already researched who I wanted to vote for so even with a write in for Ralph, it took under 2 mins. In all, a longer drive to the polls than to do the actual voting (and that didn't take much time at all).
Old 11-02-2004, 07:21 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Chicago
Posts: 11,780
One hour and 15 minutes for this Columbus, OH crucial voter. I arrived at 6:15. Some confusion as they changed the entry location from the March primary election. I entered the voting booth around 7:30..I got to work on time. I woke up extra early this morning.
Old 11-02-2004, 07:51 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: NW Indiana
Posts: 25,671
Originally Posted by xash
Just curious, but is there a maximum time limit for the time you are allowed to take to cast your vote once you enter the actual voting booth ?
No, at least none that I've ever heard of, and I've voted in three different states. Once you're in the booth you can take as long as you need, although after an especially long delay one of the volunteers might ask if you need assistance.

First time voters, especially, will take longer.

I've been voting at my current location 6 years. Normally I'm in and out in 10 minutes, at most 1 or 2 people ahead of me.

Until this morning.

This morning I got there about 15 minutes after the polls opened. There were forty people ahead of me, and volunteers trying to find more chairs for the waiting to sit in. I'd say about a 1/3 of them were first-time voters. Took me over an hour to get in and out.

Same story repeated by just about everyone when I did finally get to work - the business day essentially started an hour late. They were letting folks who hadn't voted leave work a little early so they could make it to the polls before they closed.
Old 11-02-2004, 08:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 272
It took me about 10 minutes to vote and register in my new precinct (I recently moved). The voting booths were busy, but there was not a waiting line. I voted on 9 different races.
Old 11-02-2004, 10:32 PM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: hobgoblin of geographers
Posts: 4,178
Suburban polling place near San Francisco:

About 10-15 min to get to the polling place. About 2 min to correct the mistaken turn away from the polling place.

No lines, wooshed into a booth, 5-7 min to fill out the ballot (really glad I brought my cheat sheet).

Those without cheat sheets or their sample ballots may have had a hard time with the dozen or so state initiatives and five local ones.

Total time taken to vote, including travel time: about 30 min.

Total time taken to vote, including travel time and figuring out who & what to vote for: about 4 hours 30 min.
Old 11-03-2004, 01:25 AM
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Waltham, MA
Posts: 985
About five minutes, at most, if not including the hour of travel time back to my parents.

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