Queuing

Why do Americans have to queue for so long to cast their votes? Is it just another aspect of the general American concern to make it tricky to cast a vote that’s been kicking around for quite a while now, or is there something else going on that I don’t know about? Or do the press just pick up on the long queues in some particularly inefficient parts of the country, even though most Americans can just pop along to the local polling station and cast a ballot in a minute or two, as in the rest of the democratic world? From my memory of living over there ten years ago, Americans don’t much like queuing. Not like us Brits, anyway.

13 Comments


  1. Is it not just that they’re voting for more things, which takes longer?

    Quote | Posted 4 November, 2008, 3:40 pm

  2. It’s partly the press looking for a story; it’s partly, as Dan says, long ballots. But this year it’s also very, very high turnout. I went to vote at 6 am today and waited slightly over an hour. I could have done “early voting,” as I did in the last election, at my convenience over the last month or so, but for this election I wanted to do it on election day, in my home precinct.

    Quote | Posted 4 November, 2008, 4:16 pm

  3. It depends upon where they’re voting. Organisation of voting is organized by state, and often then organized (and paid for) by counties. In practice this tends to mean that there are less voting booths per 1000 in poorer areas, than in wealthier areas.

    Quote | Posted 4 November, 2008, 5:50 pm

  4. As far as the longer ballots are concerned: I knew that, but I hadn’t really understood how long till I encountered people justifying all their ballot choices.

    Quote | Posted 4 November, 2008, 6:05 pm

  5. There’s a link under ‘justifying’ – appearantly the stylesheet doesn’t want them recognizable.

    Quote | Posted 4 November, 2008, 6:07 pm

  6. Yes – sorry about that. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m going to fiddle with the stylesheet, but I never get round to it.

    Quote | Posted 4 November, 2008, 8:23 pm

  7. Your stoa, your furnishing ;)
    I usually borrow templates, since I *know* I never get round to fiddling. I just added the explanation so people could actually take a look and be (potentially) suprised at the issues they have to vote for too.

    Quote | Posted 4 November, 2008, 8:52 pm

  8. ‘Arizona too close to call!’ Sorry that’s ITV in the background. Queueing:

    Tonight’s Snowmail (C4 news email):

    The only thing I can do is to tell you of my experience this morning, waking up in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania. I made my way next door to the nearest polling station – it’s in a Republican enclave (in an otherwise Obama-leaning city). There was no-one in line.

    I then grabbed a cab with a fabulous Ghanaian driver, who took me to the districts where the lines are winding round the block. At voting station after voting station I found people from all strands of the rainbow. The sense of excitement and of moment was palpable. People had brought their children, their chairs, their coffee, and at every station I found significant groups of Obama-ists carrying trays of water, cups of coffee, first aid kits and the rest.

    A proud proprietor of a Portaloo company was dropping off the necessities of life in Portaloo form at every station. She told me she was doing it across Philadelphia because she knew how long people would have to wait. I found children as small as two who could say the word “Obama”.

    Quote | Posted 4 November, 2008, 11:57 pm

  9. State organization problems. My girlfriend in New York had to queue for three and a half hours this morning, with only two booths for the whole voting district. In this case, it seems like it may well have been a failure of the state board to realize there’d been a housing boom in that part of the city…

    Quote | Posted 5 November, 2008, 6:55 am

  10. Watching Obama vote, he took around 20 minutes with the ballot, which was huge. In addition to all the elected representatives, they had 153 ballot initiatives across the country, so an average of 3 per state! They weren’t so sensible voting for them either.

    Quote | Posted 7 November, 2008, 2:55 pm

  11. In Chicago, the long ballot isn’t mainly due to initiatives, it’s due to the fact that we get to vote on the retention of judges in Cook County.

    From what I can tell, this might be a good idea in principle but it’s lousy in practice. Most voters either skip this section, blindly vote to retain everybody, or use the recommendations of the local newspapers, themselves based on the recommendations of a couple of powerful lawyers’ associations, which seem to base their evaluations on surveys of their membership — which means that judges who piss off prominent attorneys, or who are controversial, can get targeted for removal. (My skepticism about the objectivity of this process was heightened this year, after I discovered that three of the four of the judges so targeted by the Tribune, and who were also targeted by the big associations, were African-American women, one of whom had gotten bad press for warning an attorney during voir dire that she wouldn’t seat an all-white jury.)

    Quote | Posted 7 November, 2008, 3:45 pm

  12. Another reason..which may be too politically incorrect for some people to mention, is that alot of election workers are old folks who should have retired long ago. They are very, very slow. In addition, the very process of voting is slow and inefficient.
    Case in point: My mother and I went to the local precinct on election day. I filled in my ballot rather quickly(and no, it was not because I voted the straight Republican ticket.), fed it to the machine and eft. Then I noticed something. My mom ,who had gotten to her voting machine before me, was still in the polling place. I waited twelve minutes for her. When she emerged, shge hada tragi-comic tale to tell. It appears she had tried to fill out her balloythree times,and that each time the machine had spewed back her ballot. On one, she had put check marks on the ballot instead of properly filling in the ovals, on another, she hadnt filled ina few ovals completely, etc. Finally, a precinct worker had to help her. In the process,my mom revealed exactly who she was voting for. Baffled afterwards, my mom asked ” Did the machine dislike the fact I was voting for McCain?
    Clearly, evidence of more cunning fraud by ACORN.

    Quote | Posted 8 November, 2008, 2:32 pm

  13. I heard many tales of predominantly African-American neighbourhoods being sent fewer voting machines than predominantly white neighbourhoods and of many of the machines not working – this contributed in 2004 to lines which were longer in more deprived areas.

    Thankfully this time a fantastic effort by the Obama campaign to get people to vote early coupled with the option of filling out a paper ballot on election day meant that where I was there were only lines in the morning of election day and no lines by the end of it.

    Quote | Posted 11 November, 2008, 2:09 pm

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