Two days before Election Day, there are so many people waiting to vote in Cincinnati that the line is more than half a mile long:
4,000 people are waiting in line to vote in Cincinnati right now. This is how long the line is. pic.twitter.com/bilpnGsrzl— Saahil Desai (@Saahil_Desai) November 6, 2016
And this isn’t unique to Cincinnati. Long lines stretching for hours, with hundreds of people waiting for their turn to cast a ballot, have been a feature of the final weekend before Election Day. The early voting line at North Carolina State University stretched on seemingly endlessly, with hundreds of people waiting on Saturday:
*ALMOST* this entire line outside @NCState to vote early just before the 1pm cut off. Everyone in a good mood - pizza is coming. pic.twitter.com/mn8AoJ4NOq— Sean Gallitz (@seangallitz) November 5, 2016
When the polls closed in Franklin County, Ohio, on Saturday, there were many, many people still waiting to get in:
Final Saturday of early voting in Franklin County, Ohio after the line shut down at 4PM. pic.twitter.com/Qblc9oYdaj— Jacqueline Alemany (@JaxAlemany) November 5, 2016
And in Las Vegas on Friday night, the overwhelming numbers of voters waiting in line at an early voting site were one of the first signals that a surge in Latino turnout was coming and could mean very bad news for the Trump campaign:
This is insane line at Cardenas Market on the last night of Early Voting. #Election2016 #votemosjuntos pic.twitter.com/Z6HNLUcfAC— Jose Macias (Goloso) (@josemacias8) November 5, 2016
While the lines in swing states such as North Carolina, Ohio, and Nevada have gotten the most attention, there were also reports of long lines in Arizona (three-hour waits in Maricopa County), Los Angeles, and Boston. In the District of Columbia on Friday night, some early voting polling places reported wait times of 90 minutes.
Long voting lines are a sign that election officials screwed up
Many people interpreted the lines as a sign of voter enthusiasm and approvingly commented on voters’ determination to wait them out. But long voting lines shouldn’t be a source of inspiration. They’re a foreseeable, avoidable problem — the result of poor foresight, misallocated resources, or deliberate neglect — that threaten Americans’ ability to vote.
After reports of lines on Election Day 2012 that lasted for hours, President Barack Obama vowed to fix the problem. A bipartisan commission set up to examine the voting experience in the US declared that voters should have to wait no longer than half an hour. The commission came up with many changes that election officials could use to reduce waits — everything from carefully studying registration data in the months before the election to checking in voters while they stand in line to avoid a bottleneck.
Instead, there’s an endless line in Cincinnati because the county didn’t open nearly enough polling places for early voting — while other parts of the state have many more options:
This is what happens when there's only one place to early vote in a county of 800,000+— Saahil Desai (@Saahil_Desai) November 6, 2016
Reading @Saahil_Desai I learned Hamilton County OH (Pop 800k) has a single in-person early voting location. My county (Pop 140k) has five.— Kieran Healy (@kjhealy) November 6, 2016
This confirms what the commission concluded: Long voter lines are usually the result of not spending enough money on areas where demand is high. It’s possible states were blindsided by the demand for early voting, which has increased this year, in some areas. But the report made clear that the problem is preventable. No matter how widespread the reports of long lines were this weekend, they shouldn’t become the norm.