Long Early Voting Lines Point to Inefficiency and Voter Suppression

In numerous states, early voting has been accompanied by extremely long voting lines, which indicates both a lack of preparedness for early in-person voting and voter suppression leading up to the election.

In Columbus, Ohio, the early voting line reached a quarter of a mile long, and in Cuyahoga County, voters had to wait for several hours. This is due to a state law that limits the number of in-person early voting sites to one per county. This means that, in Franklin County, populated by more than 1.3 million people, there are 97 times fewer polling places per capita than Vinton County, populated by 13,500 people.

In Georgia, many technical issues and long lines interrupted the first week of voting, particularly in the Atlanta area. The State Farm Arena, the state’s largest early voting site, encountered technical issues. In regard to the lines, one voter who waited in line for over 5 hours to vote stated, “I think people are just really ready to vote, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes — we will stand in line to vote… We’re voting like our lives depend on it.” Another voter, who is Black, echoed this sentiment, stating, “they’ve been fighting for decades. If I’ve got to wait six or seven hours, that’s my duty to do that. I’ll do it happily”. In Cobb County, voters had to wait for six hours or more. Voters began lining up in the early dawn, and these lines persisted late into the evening. While voters seemed to be enthusiastic to cast their ballots despite long lines, being forced to wait hours to vote is mostly due to shrinking numbers of polling sites. In Georgia, despite growth in the number of registered voters, the number of polling locations has decreased by 10 percent. Similar trends have been observed in Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, and long lines have also been recorded in Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

Last week, the National Election Defense Coalition stated in a tweet, “the long lines are happening not by accident but design…Voters must stand up to defend our system of government.”

Sources: The Guardian 10/15/20, NPR 10/12/20, The Guardian 10/12/20, Al Jazeera 10/17/20