Apps Could Make Voting Lines a Thing of the Past

A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 5 2012 2:20 PM

Apps Could Make Voting Lines a Thing of the Past

Waiting in lines is annoying for customers, and managing them is burdensome for businesses, so naturally there's effort going into finding technological fixes for the problem. In principle, it seems like the exact same technology could be used to massively reduce voting lines. Here's how it works in the restaurant context:

Then, in the fall of 2011, Chernow got a cold call from Wes Adams, a designer, and Eric Eng, a developer, about an app they were launching. Called WaitAway, it allows hostesses to input a customer's name and number into an iPad or laptop, which then sends a text when a table is ready. Upon getting the message, the prospective diner can return to the restaurant or respond that she changed her mind. It was just what Chernow needed. He signed up, and within a month, walkaways were down by 30%.
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It seems like it'd work great for voting, too. But the difference is that voting inconveniences aren't really just a technical problem. There are partisan implications to making voting logistically difficult—Republicans think it helps them win elections—so there's little effort put into finding ways to make it easier. After all, you can also eliminate line waiting with a low-tech vote-by-mail system, but few places do that.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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