The myth of widespread long voting lines

In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced a “nonpartisan” commission led by two campaign lawyers “to improve the voting experience in America” because no one should have to wait in line for “five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot.” Obama cited the experience of Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old voter who allegedly waited in line for three hours to vote.

As Hans von Spakovsky shows, we can add Obama’s assertions about “voting experience” to the long list of misleading or dishonest claims contained in the SOTU speech.

Note first that Ms. Victor did not vote on election day, but rather on the first day of early voting in Miami-Dade County. That was her choice, perhaps egged on by the Democratic machine which encourages all voters to vote early, not just those who can’t vote on election day. If Victor had voted on election day, there is no reason to believe she would have waited for hours. According to von Spakovsky, the average wait time in Florida was 45 minutes. In Miami-Dade County, more than half of the precincts closed before 8 p.m., including the largest ones.

Alternatively, if Victor couldn’t vote on election day, she had the option of voting by absentee ballot. This entails no waiting in line.

Nationwide, according to von Spakovsky, the average wait time on election day was only 14 minutes. To be sure, it was longer for African-Americans, but only by 7 minutes.

Moreover, there is no basis for concluding that this difference in average wait times is due to discrimination. Blacks tend to be concentrated in large urban areas and studies show, not surprisingly, that the most populous areas had longer wait times than those with fewer voters.

Even assuming there were a problem with the waiting times in urban areas, no need would exist for the commission proposed by Obama. As von Spakovsky points out, “these areas are almost exclusively under the control of the President’s own party, whose local officials make the decisions about precinct size, voting equipment, and the number of poll workers.” These factors, along with ballot length and turnout, determine the wait time for voting. We don’t need a commission to point out the obvious.

In sum, Obama, in the finest tradition of liberalism, has identified a non-problem and proposed a “solution” that would not be needed even if the problem did exist.


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