Is waiting to vote worth it in Baltimore?

By the date of publication, Baltimore will have elected the Republican candidate for governor, Larry Hogan, into office. Mr. Hogan’s administration is one of the many Republican midterm election victories, one that has spurned Baltimore’s talk radio and news outlets into discussing what exactly happened at the polls. But one thing isn’t being discussed: the wait time to vote, which is very important in a climate of unclear voter ID regulations. However, UB’s very own John T. Willis plans on answering that question on a local level, by finding out the wait time for voters in Maryland.

Professor Willis currently teaches several courses at UB’s College of Public and International Affairs. Prior to his time at UB, he served as Maryland’s Secretary of State and as the Chair of the Special Committee on Voting Systems and Election Procedures. During his time with the latter, Maryland saw landmark legislation on election reform and the incorporation of reform measures in 2001. Professor Willis also spent time on the Commission to Revise the Election Code, a commission that was the architects behind the successful modernization of the state’s election laws.

The study used a team of researchers to go out on Election Day last month, and collect the wait times at about 20-30 polling places throughout Maryland. Their goal was to ascertain whether or not Maryland voters are experiencing drastic wait time at their respective polling places. The study itself isn’t the first one that Mr. Willis has conducted; he was the primary investigator on the Voting and the Administration of Elections in Maryland study that was released in January this year.

This one study established a benchmark for wait times with voters, prompting the Presidential Commission on Election Administration to state that, “no voter should wait longer than 30 minutes at polling places.” According to Ann Gotten, the Director of UB’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy, the study will measure Maryland’s current output of voter wait times against the previously held standards to identify issues. Once identified, recommendations will be made by the Schaefer Center to how those times can be reduced for future elections. The study will be released this month, which will then be shared by the State Board of Elections at the 2015 Maryland General Assembly session. Look for the news of the study to also make the headlines on www.ubalt.edu.

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