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Millennial Voters Face Longer Wait Times At Ballot Box

University of Oregon freshman Alex Alejandro sits on a curb on campus to sign a voter registration card as student canvasser waits in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008. The push to sign up new voters has been heavy on campus as young people are showing massive interest in this historical presidential election.

CREDIT: AP/Don Ryan.

During the past three elections, Millennial voters have become a larger percentage of the American electorate, and a new study found that these voters have longer waits in line at the ballot box than their fellow citizens.

A new study, published as a joint effort of The Advancement Project and OurTime.org, found that young and minority voters experienced a greater “time tax” on average than other voters in the 2012 presidential election. It found that African-American and Latino voters faced an average wait time of 20.2 minutes, almost eight more minutes than other voters at the ballot box.

The study particularly focused on precincts in Virginia and Florida, the states with the longest wait times, and found correlations between the percentage of the youth population in a precinct and longer wait times. In Miami-Dade, Orange, and Fairfax counties—precincts with higher proportions of voters under the age of 30—faced later closing times and longer lines.

Katherine Culliton-González, the director of Advancement Project’s Voter Protection Program, told Mother Jones that their research counters the idea that young and minority voters face longer waits because they live in more densely populated areas. Instead, she blames faulty policy.

Culliton-González explained that in Virginia “unless a voter can prove they are sick, otherwise disabled, or have to travel for work on Election Day, all voters must vote on the first Tuesday in November. These limits are probably what caused the disparities, as due to socioeconomic factors, many young voters of color have less flexibility in their work schedules.”

The authors of the study offer several suggestions to address the issue, such as adopting online and same day voter registration and eliminating strict voter identification requirements.

They caution that if changes are not adopted soon, many young voters may choose not to participate in future elections.

“Even when they do not prove outcome-determinative, such waits exact a real toll on real voters,”  law professor at Loyola University Justin Levitt said. “Sometimes, the burdens of excessive lines are sufficient to deter participation entirely.”

Whitney Allen covers voting rights and civic engagement. Follow her on Twitter @abbyabroad.

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