According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, black Americans waited longer at the polls compared to their non-black counterparts who waited an average of 19 minutes.
This particular study on the racial disparities in wait times is notable for its dependence on cell phone data while earlier studies relied on surveys. The researchers of this study avoid the common issue of inaccuracy by relying on data from smartphones using the location data provided by SafeGraph. This is Quartz’s description of SafeGraph’s technology, “aggregates data from various apps to which users share their location, giving the researchers granular, time-based location data for 10 million US smartphones.”
The study also found that neighborhoods that had a major population of black Americans had wait times about five minutes longer than neighborhoods that are predominantly white. In addition, there is a more likely chance that these black neighborhoods would have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote.
In other words, this data ushers in a clear and accurate way of following wait times. The researchers also made sure that the people they were focused on were actually waiting to vote through dividing them from the people who were simply close to the polling station.
The reason for the disparity was also examined. Researchers of this study found that the differing waiting times were not solely explained by predominantly black neighborhoods that had lower income or black voters showing up at various times due to their work schedules. The analysis shows that the difference in wait times was greatest at polling sites with the most voters. According to Quartz, an economist, Keith Chen, who is one of the authors of the study, suggests that polls in predominantly white neighborhoods are given more resources than polls in predominantly black areas.
All in all, according to these studies, it’s clear that the disadvantages of black voters are the factors that tend to discourage them to vote. The solution lies in making polls in predominantly black neighborhoods more accessible.