Why minority voters wait in lines

When I voted yesterday in the precinct where I have voted for the last 20 years, it was very quick as usual. I have never had to wait in line to get my ballot or to use a voting booth even in those presidential elections where there is a high turnout. The longest delay involves the person checking off the voting rolls having difficulty with the alphabet and locating my name.

But it is the case that many people have to wait in long lines for a long time to vote and it turns out that these are in heavily poor and/or minority areas where there is a shortage of voting machines or poll workers.When people have to spend so much time voting, there is a greater chance of them getting discouraged and leaving without voting or not turning up at all. This is worse for those voters in jobs who do not have the flexibility to go to work late.

Stephanie Mencimer looked into why this is the case and looked at the statistics in the various precincts. She reports that African Americans (23 minutes) spent on average twice as long as white voters (12 minutes) waiting to vote, and further that “[w]hite people who live in neighborhoods whose residents are less than 5 percent minority had the shortest of all wait times, just 7 minutes.” She lists a whole lot of imbalances in the number of voting machines and poll workers depending on the demographics of the precinct.

Why the discrepancy? Mencimer suggests many different possibilities, ranging from deliberate attempts to make voting harder for certain groups to the fact that poorer and minority communities are underserved in many areas and shortchanged when it comes to resources in general and the lack of voting machines and poll workers is just a byproduct of that general neglect.

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