E-Voting News and Analysis, from the Experts

Tuesday November 02, 2004

Waiting Time

Filed under: — Felten @ 5:31 pm UTC

Many polling places are reporting long waits to vote. When the wait gets long enough, some people will leave and will end up not voting.

An interesting question about today’s voting is what effect the different voting technologies might be having on waiting times. If a technology allows relatively few voters to be voting simultaneously, or if it causes voters to take longer to cast their votes, then it will tend to cause long waiting times when voter turnout is high, as it is today.

One plausible conjecture is that e-voting systems in which voters must advance through a long series of screens will tend to increase voting time and hence will increase waiting time. At this point we don’t have the enough data to evaluate such conjectures reliably, but it will be interesting to see what we can determine later.


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  1. I voted on a Diebold machine in MD this morning, and other than the non existance of a party vote, I think it was just as fast if not faster than the electromechanical system I had previously voted on (in PA). Thanks to the County Board of Elections, I knew this ahead of time from the sample ballot, but it was kind of annoying.

    Comment by elwing — Tuesday November 02, 2004 @ 5:41 pm UTC

  2. In Belgium, since 1994 there are queues in place where eVoting is in use. In 2003 they increased the number of information screen with an fixed delay for reading them. The queue were bigger than ever. It was suppose to be more usable, but with horible result.

    In 2004, they increased the number of voting stating and reverted to minimum number of information screen. The result went better (in queue time) except where computer crash of electricity issue were present.

    1) It is hard to estimate voting time and time consequence of a design/usability decision, even for a country that used eVoting for such a long time.
    2) Sequential Screen are a timing issue but low resolution screen frequently deny the full picture of a complex ballot to be displayed.

    David GLAUDE

    Comment by David GLAUDE — Tuesday November 02, 2004 @ 7:11 pm UTC

  3. As I waited on line for 1.5 hours to vote in Boston’s North End, it occurred to me that it was ridiculous that it was taking so long.. our precinct uses the old “scantron-style” ballot cards; all we really needed was more “desks", or people willing to go off in a corner with their ballot and forego the not-very-private-in-the-firstplace makeshift desks they erect for the occasion.

    And of course we would have needed more pens. I would happily have sprung for the $20 worth of felt-tip pens for the whole precinct so that 200 people could vote in parallel rather than 10.

    So even in cases where the technology is *inherently* parallelizable, people aren’t necessarily making good use of that feature, causing me to think that what the voting process really needs, more than technological beefing-up, is more brains being applied to solving the efficiency problems and people at the polling places prepared to think on their feet and find solutions to allow them to process more voters per hour if the crowds become large.

    Comment by Paul — Wednesday November 03, 2004 @ 7:53 am UTC

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