Avoid the Lines: Where and when to vote
A number of factors point towards unprecedented waiting times to vote in this election. They include likely record turnout, coronavirus precautions, elimination of straight ticket voting and uneven utilization of countywide vote centers. This article looks at voter behavior on Election Day 2019, explains changes to polling places for this election and gives some guidance for selecting a polling place on Election Day. Then it looks at how voting varied over time in this year’s primary election and gives some guidance for picking a date and time to vote in this election.
If you act promptly, voting by mail is still the best way to avoid lines. If you decide to vote in person, you should choose your time and place carefully. Not only will this reduce your own waiting time, it will help to reduce the worst-case lines for others.
WHERE TO VOTE
What Happened on Election Day 2019?
Before the November 2019 election, Hays County residents had to vote in their own precinct on Election Day. While this system was inconvenient, it did have one advantage – it tended to evenly distribute the load across all polling places. Now that any voter can go to any polling place, what would happen if they all went to the same one? To a large extent, this happened last November. Even though it was an “off year” election, people had to wait on line for hours at the popular polling places. Other polling places were virtually deserted. There was a 16-to-1 difference between the busiest and the quietest vote center.
The Wimberley Community Center (WCC) was the busiest (and had the longest lines) of all polling places on Election Day 2019. The WCC is not the closest polling place for very many people. Where did all those other voters come from? Here are the closest polling places for people who wound up voting at the WCC:
WISD Admin Office 32.5%
Cypress Creek Church 28.9%
VFW Post #6441 15.8%
Hays Fire Station #12 7.9%
Wimberley CC 7.9%
92% of WCC voters lived closer to a different polling place. Most people on line at the WCC drove past a relatively deserted polling place to get there.
What Has Changed for 2020?
Largely due to coronavirus issues, seven of the 2019 polling places cannot be used in 2020. Six new Election Day polling places have been added this year.
New polling locations in 2020 include the Hays County Transportation – Yarrington Building, Live Oak Academy High School, Scudder Primary, Texas State University Performing Arts Center, Uhland Elementary School and Dripping Springs Ranch Park.
Each 2020 polling place will have as many voting machines as the site will accommodate, up to the design limit of 12. In addition, five locations will have a second voter check-in station. This will reduce the number of times that special circumstances (“problem voters”) slow down the line.
Where Should I Vote?
Expect long lines at 2019’s busiest stations. These were the five busiest, so you might want to avoid them:
1. Wimberley Community Center
2. Precinct 4 Office
3. Government Center
4. Buda City Hall
5. Precinct 2 Office
The dual check-ins may shuffle the order of the busiest places, but these will still be in the top tier of long lines. Look for a less busy polling location that may be closer to you. Even if you have to go out of your way, fifteen minutes of extra driving might save you hours in line.
Local voting locations that will be open for both early voting and Election Day voting are the Wimberley Community Center and Scudder Primary. Additionally, voting on Election Day, but not early voting, will be held at Cypress Creek Church and VFW Post #6441.
WHEN TO VOTE
What Happened in the 2020 Primaries?
Voter check-in times for this year’s primary show a clear pattern. (Voter check-in times are not available for the 2019 general election.) Here is how turnout varied through the voting period:
• Turnout is fairly constant until the last two days of early voting. Then it increases dramatically every day.
• With two exceptions, the lowest turnout is in the earliest hours of voting.
o The polls didn’t open until 1 PM on Sunday, and there was a big surge at that time.
o There was a relatively high turnout in the first hour of the first day. Actually, it is a little surprising that there wasn’t a bigger surge, but 2019 was a low salience election. There may be a greater pent-up demand for this election, resulting in a bigger surge when the polls open on October 13th.
• Turnout usually peaks around midday until the last two days. o There is not as much late-day drop-off on the last day of early voting.
o Turnout climbs steadily all day on Election Day.
To see a graph of voter turnout over time, see the link at the end of this article.
When Should I Vote?
Take advantage of early voting. You might want to pass on the first day, but do not wait until the last two or three days of early voting. Vote early in the morning or near the end of voting hours. If you vote on Sunday, do not show up right at opening time.
If you act promptly, voting by mail is still the best way to avoid lines. If you decide to vote in person, pick a less-utilized vote center. Take advantage of early voting, but don’t wait until the last few days. Avoid the midday if practical. But whatever time and place you choose, VOTE!
For more information about avoiding the lines, visit https://tinyurl.com/avoid-the-