clock menu more-arrow no yes

Being white on Election Day means you probably didn’t stand in a crazy line to vote

Insufficient voting machines and poll workers mean long lines on Election Day.

Long lines make voting harder.

And you can pretty much predict which Americans deal with that extra hassle by looking at the racial makeup of neighborhoods.

While it's widely discussed that laws requiring voter identification can suppress minority votes, having the proper ID isn't the end of the battle when it comes to giving everyone an equal chance to cast a ballot. Even voters who obtain the required identification (which is easier said than done, especially if money is tight or you've just learned of your state's new requirements) have no way of getting past an excessively long line, and thus no way of getting around this outrageous Election Day racial disparity.

Mother Jones' Stephanie Mencimer pulled together some data on the inadequate machines and long lines in places where non-white voters live. In 2012, black Americans waited an average of 23 minutes to vote, Hispanics waited 19 minutes, and white people waited 12 minutes.

(Mother Jones)

Here are just a few examples of these voting inequalities, according to Mencimer:

  • "White people who live in neighborhoods whose residents are less than 5 percent minority had the shortest of all wait times, just 7 minutes."
  • "In areas of [Lee County, Florida] where African Americans and Latinos made up 40 to 50 percent of the population, precincts on average had a machine for every 2,150 voters, compared with 1,485 in areas with less than 10 percent minority populations."
  • "After the 2004 election, University of Michigan political scientist Walter Mebane studied Franklin County [Ohio] for the Democratic National Committee, which wanted to figure out why so many likely Democratic voters had been unable to vote. He found that precincts with large minority populations had nearly 24 percent more registered voters per voting machine than in precincts whose population was less than one-quarter minority."
  • The full article lists several more specific instances in which white voters have had it easier at the polls than black and Hispanic voters. The reasons for the disparities aren't clear — Mencimer wrote that there's no evidence of an actual scheme to keep voters in predominantly black and Latino areas that tend to vote Democratic from the polls. But that doesn't make them any less troubling.