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Government, Politics & Issues

Use This Tool On Election Day To Check Polling Site Wait Times In St. Louis County

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Kayla Drake
/
St. Louis Public Radio
A St. Louis County couple waits in line to cast absentee ballots at the board of elections office at Northwest Plaza in St. Ann on Oct. 21.

The St. Louis County Board of Elections announced Wednesday it will publish polling site wait times online throughout the day on Election Day, Nov. 3.

County leaders say the interactive map will help reduce crowding at polling sites and help voters plan ahead of time. St. Louis County is the first county in Missouri to provide live estimates for wait times at polling sites during an election.

“It will give voters a little more flexibility, so they can have a more convenient voting experience prior to Election Day and on Election Day,” said Democratic Director of Elections Eric Fey.

Election judges will be in charge of counting the number of people in line to check in and updating the site at least every 30 minutes. The board of elections estimates it takes about a minute to check a voter in.

The interactive map also allows voters to view a sample ballot and nearby polling locations. The St. Louis County Board of Elections changed rules in August to allow voters to cast a ballot at any polling location within the county on Election Day. Residents can enter their address and set a distance radius under the “nearby polling places” tab on the map to find polls with shorter wait times.

There will be nearly half as many polling stations in St. Louis County this Election Day as for the last presidential election in 2016 — a decrease from more than 400 polling sites then to 231 polling locations this year. The reduction is the result of fewer poll workers signing up, fewer locations volunteering to serve as voting sites and updated ballot printing machines, election officials said.

Residents who want to cast absentee ballots in person or drop off completed vote-by-mail ballots before Election Day will be able to do so at four new satellite voting locations, in addition to the county board of elections office at Northwest Plaza in St. Ann:

  • North County Rec Complex — 2577 Redman Road, St. Louis
  • Mid-County Branch Library — 7821 Maryland Ave., St. Louis
  • St. Louis County Government Center West — 82 Clarkson Wilson Center, Chesterfield | 314-615-8760
  • St. Louis County Government Center South — 4544 Lemay Ferry Road, St. Louis | 314-615-4000

The satellite locations will open Thursday morning and close at 5 p.m. Nov. 2. People can check the wait times for those satellite locations on the county website by clicking on the green ballot box icons.

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Kayla Drake
Democratic Director of Elections Eric Fey answers questions at a press conference on Oct. 21.

The ability to track wait times could especially benefit voters of color, who on average encountered longer lines nationwide than their white counterparts in both the 2012 and 2016 general elections and historically have faced voter disenfranchisement efforts.

The interactive map was built by the county’s mapping department on Esri, a GIS software used by numerous election authorities around the country. It took three days to set up.

In the August primary, fewer than 5% of voters cast ballots at a different polling station than they were assigned, but Republican Director of Elections Rick Stream said he anticipates the percentage will go up this election.

A county spokesperson said the goal for future elections is to create an app that appears in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

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