Under the Button is part of a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

8-hour Voting Lines Are Actually Vital For a Well-Functioning American Democracy


Photo (with edits) by James Willamor / CC BY-SA 2.0

Democracy. The Greeks invented it, America perfected it. The United States is a certified expert at democratic principles. We are constantly promoting ‘democracy’ and its great values across the globe. We provoke wars “in the name of democracy”. We’ll stage a coup in another state to set up a new ‘democratic’ system. We even have a history of colonizing and neocolonizing people to spread and uphold this form of government. All in all, we know what we are talking about when it comes to well-functioning governmental processes… and we are not afraid to invade your country to prove it.

So, when hearing about people criticizing our massively-long, but highly patriotic, voting lines, I knew that there was no way that this great democratic country was letting its citizens down. (I mean, we are the country that makes you earn your voting rights rather than just give them to you, which is pretty spectacular). Not only can an argument be made that voting lines show that our democracy is not suffering… but there is also an argument that can be made that voting lines are vital to our democracy.

Here is a list of four reasons that support this argument:

  1. Increased Involvement in Democracy. You hear activists always talking about how more people need to get involved in politics. Well 8 hours is a long time of involvement, right? American democracy is all about showing up and just ‘being there’ anyways. BONUS: It is shown that people in majority non-white communities have to stay in longer lines. Which, if you think about it, can inherently be a good thing as white people are too involved in election decision-making already!
  2. Displaying The Political Process. Long voting lines can display what American democracy is all about: bureaucratic incrementalism. Each small step you take in line is a metaphor for the painfully slow pace of policymaking. Keeping voters informed and educated with these metaphors is important.
  3. Bipartisanship. While you gleefully wait to vote, you can discuss with others in line with you… even those across the political aisle. You can discuss important items - like the candidates, policies, and how long the line is that y’all are currently standing in.
  4. Comradery. Having to endure long voting lines in bad weather can really bring a sense of comradery among your fellow Americans. You can think to yourself “Wow this stinks. But at least we are together in it”. That’s special.