Election Day can often be pretty chaotic — where's my polling place, again? Do I need my ID? The truth is that your experience of voting will depend almost entirely on where you live, because elections are largely managed at the statewide and local levels. How long it will take you to vote, for example, is mostly a function of how many polling places your state has allocated for your area, how big turnout is where you live, and how efficient your local poll workers are.
Early voting lines, for example, often tend to be very long because fewer polling stations are open. In Hamilton County, Ohio — where Cincinnati is located — the line to vote on Saturday was over 4,000 people and half a mile long at one point because the county of 800,000 residents only had a single polling place. On Election Day itself, however, many more polling locations in Cincinnati and elsewhere will be open. Generally speaking, long polling lines are more common in lower-income and minority communities, according to data collected in a report from the Brennan Center for Justice. These lines, particularly for low-income voters who may be attempting to schedule their trip to the polling place between multiple jobs, are arguably a reason why those communities have lower voting rates.
However, the wait isn't inevitable — and fears about long lines should not keep you at home this Election Day.
As Vice President Joe Biden reminded voters earlier this week, it helps to have a plan. Many counties around the country now use technology to help voters view live wait-time data online so you can see the wait before you go. You can find your polling place here, and remember that no matter what you see on Twitter or other social media, you can't vote online. If your precinct is prone to having long waits, get an early start and try to vote before work, or bring snacks and a book and spend your time in line reflecting on how important this election is.
That's why you have to vote — even if the line is long — because this election, and your right to vote, matter. As a woman, my right to vote is a direct result of the struggle of the legions of women that came before me, and sitting out during such a major election would be an insult to their legacies.
After all, if Susan B. Anthony can be thrown in prison for trying to cast a ballot, you can devote an hour or two out of your day.
Image: Bustle/Allison Gore