Yesterday’s turnout for Knox County election was approximately 52,000 or so, which is between 20-25% of the ~244,000 registered voters in this county. R. Neal says that while it’s high for Knox County, it’s still low for an election with as much as stake as this one had.
What’s interesting to me is that, as I said yesterday at 7:30 there was a line out the door of the gym to vote and it took me 40 minutes to finally get all the way through. And all 9 voting machines were in heavy use. There was no way they could’ve expanded their resources to cover more voters. What if turnout had been 40%? 60%? God help us, 80%? What would the polling places have done then? They couldn’t order out for more machines…. the wait time would’ve been interminable.
Just because historical precedent suggests 20-25% turnout, that doesn’t mean a much higher percentage shouldn’t be prepared for.
UPDATE: Another point that occurs to me - who's to say that long lines or rumors of long lines don't deter voters from stopping in? How many potential voters drove by a polling place or through the parking lot yesterday, saw the line and decided not to waste his/her time and drive on? And how many at home or in their car talked to someone by cell phone who as standing in line and, warned at the long wait, stayed away?
It would be to everyone's advantage to make sure that lines are short at all times, not just non-peak times, and that there is something there to at least engage the minds of those standing in line so it doesn't seem so bloody long. At Cedar Bluff Middle I chatted a bit with two ladies who were standing in front of me but that was it. There was nothing to watch, nothing to read, nothing to catch my attention while waiting.
Would it be such a subversion of the polling process to have workers walking up and down the lines, chatting, makind conversation, maybe fetching drinks of water or soda for the souls in line? As long as the political chatter and opinion was kept out of it, that might help.
The shorter the lines and more efficient the voting process, the more people will agree it's not a waste of good, valuable time and come out.