One of the most easily identifiable indicators of a positive voter experience is a short wait time at the polls. Wait times, however, vary dramatically both among voting locations and between elections. According to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, more than 5 million voters waited for more than an hour to cast a ballot in 2012. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis found that African American and Hispanic voters experienced the longest wait times: White voters averaged a 12-minute wait, while African American voters averaged a 23-minute wait and Hispanic voters averaged a 19-minute wait.

The commission issued a recommendation in its 2014 report that election administration officials should aim for all voting wait times to be no longer than 30 minutes. Long wait times are the output of a broken electoral system, confusing or restrictive registration rules, narrow or nonexistent early and absentee voting opportunities, and a constant influx of new voter ID requirements—all of which have been shown to disproportionately affect minority voters. To fix wait times, states must address these underlying factors.

For this analysis, 2008 and 2012 numbers are used rather than 2014 numbers, as presidential elections—and the larger voter turnout they entail—provide a better stress test assessment opportunity than midterm election cycles. In addition, looking at both years smooths out any anomalies in the data that may occur due to incidents such as a natural disaster, which could negatively affect turnout.

For a more detailed explanation of each factor, including citations, please download the full report.

Click to view scoring methodology
  1. State's Performance
    Points added to score
  2. For state ranked 1
    0 points
  3. Among states ranked 2–5
    1 points
  4. Among states ranked 6-10
    2 points
  5. Among states ranked 11-15
    3 points
  6. Among states ranked 16-20
    4 points
  7. Among states ranked 21-25
    5 points
  8. Among states ranked 26-30
    6 points
  9. Among states ranked 31-35
    7 points
  10. Among states ranked 36-40
    8 points
  11. Among states ranked 41-45
    9 points
  12. Among states ranked 46-51
    10 points
Policy Recommendation for This Factor

Unlike a number of other factors in this report, voting wait times does not lend itself to a single policy recommendation provided. Instead, a number of different policy recommendations included in this report will help states improve voting wait times. In particular, recommendations to modernize voter registration and eliminate barriers to participation and representation will improve voter accessibility and relieve burdens at the polls on Election Day. To see the full list of policy recommendations to improve the health of state democracies based on the findings of this report, click here.

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