Inspired by Disney: measuring wait times

People waiting in line at a polling place

Contributed by Tim Tsujii, the Voter Wait Time Measurement Tool offers election officials the ability to measure the real wait times experienced at polling places.

Tim got the inspiration for this tool during a family visit to Walt Disney World in Florida — another place where waiting in line is a familiar experience. At Disney, Tim saw employees scanning and handing out cards to guests as they got in line at popular rides like Space Mountain and Dinosaur. Once they reached the ride, employees reclaimed the cards and scanned them again. Using the start and ending timestamps, Disney’s program measures an overall wait time, which is ultimately published at large displays by the attractions, on the Walt Disney World app, and other places.

Inspired by Disney’s method, Tim adapted it to election administration.

Using a mobile app called TimeStation, election workers prepare printed cards with a QR barcode on them, and when lines develop, they scan the cards using a smartphone or tablet and give them to voters as they get into line, later reclaiming and scanning each card once the voter is able to vote.

Election staff can then transmit wait times to the Board of Elections to publish on their website, make staffing decisions, and so on. With the benefit of information regarding wait times, voters can make informed choices about things like when and how to vote, transportation, and childcare arrangements, and election administrators can make judgments about capacity issues and resource allocation.

Is this tool something your election office wants to use? Read about the resources you’ll need and the instructions to put it in place.