Tensions are running high, people. We’re just five short days from the election and you can practically smell the anxiety in the air. In fact, this palpable anxiety will resonate with every voter out there and, dare I say it, even bridges party lines. What am I talking about? Voting lines, obviously.
Voting lines, though maybe not one of the top reasons voters stay away from the polls, is a major thorn in the side of all politically conscious people. Forget for a second that Election Day is always on a Tuesday, the real issue is that Election Day isn’t a national holiday, meaning most voters will have to carve time out of their busy days to execute their civic duty. A duty that is incumbent on them.
There has to be a way around this, right? I mean, when I was in school, instead of learning the curriculum, I was finding ways to beat the system, or in this case, “cut the line”. I think it’s time to dust off my mischief hat and explore ways to avoid the day-draining lines of Election Day.
34 states (and the District of Columbia) have an early voting process that allows voters to cast their ballots weeks in advance to try and ease the line-waiting affliction. I know that in my home state, Texas, early voting opened October 24, meaning voters could head to the polls a full two weeks early. From experience, this doesn’t cut down the wait time 100% - I still waited 20+ minutes to vote – but 20 minutes is a hell of a lot better than three hours.
In all honesty, if your main objective, other than casting a vote, is to avoid long lines, this is your best bet. Unfortunately, seven states do not allow early voting of any kind; so if you live in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, or Rhode Island, you may want to scroll down for another course of action.
AVOID THE POPULAR TIMES
This isn’t necessarily going to be easy to pull off, but try to get in line as early as possible on Election Day. I know a lot of us don’t have that luxury, you know, with kids and all, but if you can make it out of the house, and to the polling center when they open, your wait time is likely to be more manageable.
As you can probably guess, the most heavily trafficked times for voters are lunch, and straight after work. If you have any desire to not spend hours (plural) waiting in line, avoid these times if possible.
That might mean asking your boss if you can come in a little late, or leave a little early. Maybe it means just taking a sick day. If you can afford to miss a morning, or an entire day without having your pay docked, or losing your job, it’s well worth it.
RESEARCH YOUR AREA (THIS ONE’S A STRETCH)
Depending on how large your precinct is, there are likely to be multiple polling centers in your area. Do a little research over the coming days and see if you can figure out which polling centers tend to be less crowded than others. If you think you have come to a logical conclusion, give it a shot. What do you have to lose?
WHAT IF YOU CAN’T AVOID THE LINES
This is the likely fate for most voters: sentenced to a long, protracted wait in line, just to cast a ballot that will likely take no longer than 90 seconds to complete. If this is what you have to look forward to on November 8th, bring yourself a little something to do, like a book, or a podcast. Anything that will take your mind off the leg-cramp-inducing wait is a welcome distraction. Here’s a crazy idea: try to talk to the other waiting voters, but in my experience, if you don’t want to get into a politically charged conversation with the people around you, this may not be the best course of action.
Regardless of how much time you’re likely to spend in line, stick with it. Don’t let the snaking mass of people ahead of you deter you from completing what you set out to do.
Until next time – get out the vote.