Free and fair elections are vital to a well-functioning democracy, but in the United States, casting a ballot costs some voters significantly more time than others. Chicago Booth’s Devin G. Pope and his coauthors used geolocation data to track average wait times at polling places during the 2016 presidential election. They find that typical wait times varied markedly between majority Black neighborhoods and majority white neighborhoods, with residents of entirely Black neighborhoods waiting 30 percent longer than residents of entirely white neighborhoods. The researchers’ data don’t provide an answer as to why this disparity exists, but the data do highlight a meaningful inequality in the American electoral system.

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