Just as the one-year count-down for the 2016 presidential election has begun, the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project has released a new report about managing polling place resources. Click here for the executive summary, and here for the full report.
Part of the Polling Place of the Future Project of the Voting Technology Project (VTP), this report serves as a companion to a set of Web-based tools that the VTP developed and posted at the request of the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), to facilitate the recommendation that local jurisdictions “develop models and tools to assist them in effectively allocating resources across polling places.”
Spreading the word
The report takes several new steps in the effort to spread the word about the usefulness of applying queuing theory to improve polling place practices. First, it provides a single source of facts about lines at polling places in 2012 (with some updating to 2014). Second, it provides a brief, intuitive introduction to queuing theory as applied to polling places — with a brief list of suggested readings for those who would like to learn more. Finally, the report uses data from two actual local election jurisdictions and walks through “what-if analyses” that rely on the application of the resource allocation tools.
Sharing the basic facts
The report also provides basic facts about where long lines were experienced in 2012 and which voters — based on race, voting mode, and residence — waited longer than others. Information about the 2014 election updates previous research, and underscores how long lines tend to be more prevalent in on-year (presidential) elections than in midterm elections.
Beyond providing basic facts about the location of lines in American elections, the report provides a basic introduction to the science of line management, queuing theory, and a list of further readings for those who wish to delve more deeply into the subject. Finally, this report demonstrates how the Web-based tools might be used, by working through actual data from two local jurisdictions.
Online "Allocation Calculator Tools" used by thousands around the globe
In support of the PCEA’s work, the VTP had already assembled and published a set of online tools — the resource allocation calculators — which help election administrators plan for smooth voting experiences. The PCEA report highlighted the need for these calculators and recommended their use.
Since the release of the PCEA report, the VTP calculator website has been visited thousands of times by users across the country (and around the world.) Numerous jurisdictions have sent positive feedback about the utility of these calculators, as state and local officials try to effectively allocate their limited resources.
In recent months, two of the resource calculators have been updated, and those updates have been posted on the site. The new versions include improvements to the user interfaces and the ability to upload data from multiple precincts, which allows the simultaneous analysis of hundreds of polling places for large jurisdictions.
Election administrators are always looking for ways to improve the experience for voters, and this report is timed to allow election administrators to prepare and fine-tune their plans for November 2016.