Measuring voter wait times in Arapahoe County, Colorado

Featured image: clock on the wall

Nobody likes long waits on Election Day. For voters, waiting a long time to cast a ballot is a big inconvenience, and it can discourage people from participating. For poll workers, it adds unwelcome stress. And for election administrators, it often brings negative attention — even if they did their best to cross their t’s and dot their i’s.

There’s no cure-all for preventing delays at the polls, but one approach to the challenge is to measure voter wait times. That’s what election staff are doing in Arapahoe County, Colorado using the Voter Wait Time Measurement Tool.

Before using the tool, the team had to measure wait times the old-fashioned way, explains Deputy of Elections Jennifer Morrell.

“Previously, we followed the common practice of Election Judges handing out slips of paper to voters and hand calculating their time in line. A staff member in our Communications Office was assigned to call each voting location once every hour and input the reported wait time into a spreadsheet, which got uploaded periodically to our website.”

This old process was slow, it took a full-time employee to manage, and the wait times reported always had a lag.

The Measurement Tool has cut much of the manual labor. Instead of paper slips, voters get laminated badges with a QR code. Election Judges don’t need to crunch numbers because the TimeStation app does it for them. And since the data can be accessed anywhere, no phone calls are needed.

Laminated QR code badge with iPad running the Voter Wait Time app

iPad with wait-time badge

“The Voter Wait Time Measurement Tool was so easy to set up and use,” Jennifer says, “that we decided to try and integrate it into our new Find My Nearest tool so that we could provide nearly ‘live’ wait times.”

By default, the app is a measurement tool — not a reporting tool — but the ambitious Arapahoe County staff created a website to report wait times to the public, and they’re looking forward to testing it this Election Day.

GIS Administrator Dominick Cisson admits the system he designed “is complex,” but he’s optimistic about its capabilities. “I think it will work well on Election Day and provide a level of reporting not possible without constant manual reporting of wait times. If this configuration works well, no doubt we will iterate its design and improve its performance and repeatability in future elections.”

Arapahoe County staff didn’t stop there, though. Seeing additional uses for the tool, the team decided to use it as a timeclock for their Election Judges, again streamlining a process that used to take more time and labor.

“The Voter Wait Time Measurement Tool,” Jennifer concludes, “solved two problems for our county and also made the big leap from a paper-based system to an electronic system for administering two important functions in the voting process.”

Do you want to measure voter waits in your area? Get started with the Voter Wait Time Measurement Tool.