Long lines? Here's what you should know before heading to the polls on Election Day

Vote, election
Posted at 6:50 PM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-03 09:28:54-05

Could you see lines on Election Day depending on where you live? The short answer is yes. How long you'll have to wait though, is hard to predict.

Maricopa County has continued to break early voting records, with more than 1 million voters submitting their early ballots more than a week before Election Day.

“This is wildly different than anything we’ve seen before," said George Khalaf, President of Data Orbital.

While Maricopa County Election officials say they're preparing for 200,000 to 300,000 in-person voters on Election Day county-wide, some data experts worry areas near county lines to the north, west and south could see longer lines than other areas.

According to Khalaf, areas in Buckeye and Cave Creek could see more voters heading to the polls on November 3. Data shows voters in those areas haven't returned as many early ballots as voters in Phoenix and Scottsdale, more populated areas.

"What I’m predicting could happen on Election Day is that there could be some voting centers that have some fairly long lines all day, very consistently and there’s going to be somebody in centers that don’t see lines at all," said Khalaf. "It's just purely a numbers game, and that's the disparity I’m concerned about."

Some voters may recall seeing long lines during the 2016 presidential primary election.

"We learned from that," said Election Day and Emergency Voting Director Scott Jarrett. Jarrett says Maricopa County only has 60 polling locations, with only two check-in stations at each, forcing voters to wait several hours in line to cast their ballots in person.

In September, Maricopa County Elections Department released its plan for in-person voting for the 2020 general election.

During the last general election, Maricopa County opened 500 polling locations. This year, due to COVID-19, county officials will only open 175 in-person vote centers.

Still, they'll work differently to allow more voters to vote at each location.

Voters are no longer assigned to a location or precinct. With Maricopa County's new vote center model, voters registered in Maricopa County can vote at any location.

Sites will also be larger to allow for physical distancing and be able to accommodate more voters at a time.

"We have nine check-in stations in them, some of them have up to 15 check-in stations," said Jarrett. "We have anywhere from twenty-five to thirty-five voting booths. So, that is really designed to be able to get anywhere from 1,500 to 2,200 voters per location through the process with a relatively short wait time.”

Other strategies include online help, giving voters the option to check wait times and see how many people are in line before arriving at a vote center. If you're at a site with a line, Jarrett adds some poll workers will be acting as line management clerks, keeping track of wait times at other nearby vote centers, helping re-direct voters to locations with shorter lines.

Jarrett expects anywhere from two-hundred thousand to three-hundred thousand in-person voters on Election Day.