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How long should I expect to wait in line to vote?

People line up to vote at a shopping center on the first day of in-person early voting on October 17, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Ethan Miller
People line up to vote at a shopping center on the first day of in-person early voting on October 17, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Ethan Miller (Getty Images)

If you’re someone who prefers to vote in-person either before Election Day or on it, how long should you expect to wait in line?

Below are three factors that will largely determine how long it will take for you to vote.


1.) Where you do it

The resources a voting district has will go a long way in determining how long you are there.

If district has a good number of polling places, machines and polling staff or volunteers, odds are, you won’t have to spend too long. But a voting district that is devoid of such things will likely have you waiting longer.

There is a contrast in wait times for those voting at predominantly white precincts as opposed to nonwhite ones, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. Surveying 3,119 precincts, the center found that the average voting wait time in 2018 for precincts with 10% or less non-white voters was 5.1 minutes, and the median was 3.6 minutes. In precincts with 90% or more non-white voters, the average wait time was 32.4 minutes and the median was 13.3 minutes. You can read more about the report by clicking or tapping here.

2.) Whether you vote early or on Election Day

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to be an issue nationwide, more people are expected to vote early for this election.

But voting early at a precinct could lead to longer wait times, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

In 2018, people voting in person waited an average of 12.2 minutes, while those who voted on Election Day waited an average of 7.8 minutes.

3.) What time of day you decide to vote

While many people might not have a choice due to work or school schedules, it’s actually not beneficial to vote within the first hour a polling place is open, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Its survey from the 2018 election found that 63% of precincts had their longest lines when the doors opened, while 69% had their longest lines within the first hour.

There tends to be a lull after the first hour until the 10th hour a polling place is open, when people get off work and closing time nears, according to the survey.


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