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Northeastern University Launches “Time to Vote” App to Measure Wait Times and More in Two Potential Swing States Northeastern University Launches “Time to Vote” App to Measure Wait Times and More in Two Potential Swing States

Time to Vote10.19.20 — Today, Northeastern University is launching “Time to Vote,” a smartphone app and research study that will measure the length of time people wait in line to vote and collect other information about voting line behavior, polling places and vote-by-mail experiences in North Carolina and Arizona during the national election. The app will digitally map the results in order to display any disparate wait times and experiences by geographic location and combine the results with existing voting behavior research to assess the extent to which such disparate experiences result in disenfranchisement of voters. Preliminary results of the “Time to Vote” study will be released on www.timetovote2020.com on Wednesday, November 4, with a more comprehensive analysis to follow.

“Results of our ‘Time to Vote’ study will help elections officials and administrators do their jobs better by reducing levels of voter disenfranchisement attributable to things that can very easily be fixed, such as allocating more poll workers or voting machines to certain locations,” said Professor Costas Panagopoulos, an expert on voting behavior who serves as chair of Northeastern’s Political Science Department and one of three principal investigators on the study. 

With crucial national and local elections regularly being decided by razor-thin margins, unequal allocation of electoral resources and subsequent voter disenfranchisement are one of this era’s most pressing civil rights issues. The pandemic threatens to exacerbate wait times and other voting challenges. While a number of recent studies have examined aspects of vote line wait times either by deploying polling place observers or examining bulk smartphone geospatial data, none have attempted to gather voting line wait time information directly from voters while they wait in line to vote on November 3. “Time to Vote” will accomplish this goal by deploying a voter-activated timer that is geographically validated with individual smartphone geospatial data, followed by a short survey. The app will also gather information from voters who vote early and who vote by mail. Northeastern’s research team intends to use the data to develop effective strategies for, among other things, reducing instances of voters leaving the line before voting in elections, so that every eligible citizen is able to cast a vote, regardless of political affiliation or geographic location.

This election year research project, funded by a Northeastern University interdisciplinary research grant, is a collaboration among the university’s School of Law, College of Social Science and Humanities, College of Arts, Media and Design, and Charlotte, North Carolina, campus, as well as the leading social good app developer Quadrant 2. Project partners include Community Building Initiative, Fayetteville NOW, Johnson C. Smith University, League of Women Voters of Arizona, the NAACP Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch, Pride Magazine and Women Voters USA.

 Voters in North Carolina and Arizona who wish to participate in the “Time to Vote” study may download the smartphone app now at the Apple and Google App Stores. Voters without access to a smartphone can still participate in the study by visiting www.timetovote2020.com.  Questions about the research study, which was reviewed and approved by the Northeastern University Institutional Review Board (#20-07-05), may be directed to Shannon Al-Wakeel, managing director of Northeastern University School of Law’s Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration at s.al-wakeel@northeastern.edu or 617-373-4386.

About Northeastern University School of Law

The nation’s leader in experiential legal education since 1968, Northeastern University School of Law offers the longest-running, most extensive experience-based legal education program in the country and is a national leader in legal education reform. Founded with cooperative legal education as the cornerstone of its program, Northeastern guarantees its students unparalleled practical legal work experiences. All students participate in full-time legal placements, and can choose from the more than 1,500 employers worldwide participating in the school’s signature Cooperative Legal Education Program. Northeastern University School of Law blends theory and practice, providing students with a unique set of skills and experience to successfully practice law.

For more information, contact d.feldman@northeastern.edu.