Boston City Council Looks to Prevent Long Election Day Lines

Some residents waited more than three hours to vote on Election Day.


More than 65% of registered voters in Boston came out to vote on Election Day - but many of them waited in hour-long lines to vote, with some walking away before casting their ballots.

District 2 Boston City Councilor Bill Linehan said he believes there's no reason for voters to wait in line for extended periods, and offered several ways to improve Election Day waiting times. Linehan introduced the matter at Wednesday's Boston City Council meeting.

"As we talk about redistricting issues in the last two years, we have some precincts that have too many people," Linehan said. "Those precincts led to lines for 2.5 to 3 hours."

In West Roxbury, the four precincts at the Holy Name School polling site had at least an hour line before voting opened. But other neighborhoods saw very long lines.

Specifically, in District 2, Linehan said four precincts suffered from long lines, and he said one person told him he showed up to vote at 6 a.m., and didn't vote until 10 a.m.

One of Linehan's suggestions was to resize precincts to make them more even, adding that some precincts have more than 4,000 registered voters, while some precincts are around 400 voters. He said the average is approximately 2,000.

Linehan, who chaired the recent redistricting committee, said redistricting could have addressed the size of precincts, but failed to do so.

He also suggested allowing early voting before Election Day, or creating a second location for some precincts. Hes said he'd like Boston's Elections Department to come to a future hearing to discuss the situation. 

"If people had a bad voting experience in 2012, they may not come out to vote in 2013," Linehan said. 

At-Large City Councilor Felix Arroyo recounted an Election Day story when he saw people leaving from long lines, choosing not vote. Arroyo asked them why they were leaving, and was told they needed to go home and feed their families, or that they were just too cold to wait in line anymore.  

Arroyo suggested voting by mail or online, and making Election Day a federal holiday so people could vote after 9 a.m. and before 5 p.m. (when voting wanes while people are working). 

District 4 City Councilor Charles Yancey contended that adjusting precinct population may just increase voting lines in other locations. He stood behind using modern technology such as early or online voting as methods to decrease lines. “With today’s technology there’s no reason for anyone to wait half an hour, two hours, three hours, to exercise their right to vote," he said. 

District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson said Boston should have same day voting registration like New Hampshire. “We should never be behind New Hampshire,” he said. 


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