Waiting to Vote in the 2016 Presidential Election: Evidence from a Multi-county Study

Robert M. Stein, Christopher Mann, Charles Stewart, Zachary Birenbaum, Anson Fung, Jed Greenberg, Farhan Kawsar, Gayle Alberda, R. Michael Alvarez, Lonna Atkeson, Emily Beaulieu, Nathaniel A. Birkhead, Frederick J. Boehmke, Joshua Boston, Barry C. Burden, Francisco Cantu, Rachael Cobb, David Darmofal, Thomas C. Ellington, Terri Susan FineCharles J. Finocchiaro, Michael D. Gilbert, Victor Haynes, Brian Janssen, David Kimball, Charles Kromkowski, Elena Llaudet, Kenneth R. Mayer, Matthew R. Miles, David Miller, Lindsay Nielson, Yu Ouyang, Costas Panagopoulos, Andrew Reeves, Min Hee Seo, Haley Simmons, Corwin Smidt, Farrah M. Stone, Rachel VanSickle-Ward, Jennifer Nicoll Victor, Abby Wood, Julie Wronski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This paper is the result of a nationwide study of polling place dynamics in the 2016 presidential election. Research teams, recruited from local colleges and universities and located in twenty-eight election jurisdictions across the United States, observed and timed voters as they entered the queue at their respective polling places and then voted. We report results about four specific polling place operations and practices: the length of the check-in line, the number of voters leaving the check-in line once they have joined it, the time for a voter to check in to vote (i.e., verify voter’s identification and obtain a ballot), and the time to complete a ballot. Long lines, waiting times, and times to vote are closely related to time of day (mornings are busiest for polling places). We found the recent adoption of photographic voter identification (ID) requirements to have a disparate effect on the time to check in among white and nonwhite polling places. In majority-white polling places, scanning a voter’s driver’s license speeds up the check-in process. In majority nonwhite polling locations, the effect of strict voter ID requirements increases time to check in, albeit modestly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-453
Number of pages15
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this research was provided by the Democracy Fund.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 University of Utah.


  • election administration
  • polling place operations
  • voting behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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