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Travis County's New Online Initiative Could Be Your Road Map to Shorter Voting Lines

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Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
Voters wait in line at the Fiesta Mart on 38th Street in Austin on March 1, 2016.

Travis County election officials are introducing a new interactive map that may help voters find the shortest lines at the election polling places in this fall. 

In the past couple elections, voters have typically tweeted out alerts about where the longer lines were and where there were short lines.  That's been a big help to Travis County Twitter users, but not so much for everyone else.

This election should be different.

Travis County officials are piloting an an interactive map that will tell voters about conditions at polling places, using a simple red, yellow and green light system. Green will mean lines are short; red that they’re really long.

"That will move voters around and allow them to use their time more efficiently," said Travis County Tax Assessor Bruce Elfant. "You go to one polling place and there’s an hour and a half wait. You’re thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I’m just stuck here.’ But there may be 15 minutes away another polling place that doesn’t have much of a wait.” 

Gretchen Nagy, the county’s voter registration director, has been working with her office’s computer mapping staff to develop the map.

“The election judges at the polling locations have computers. The system automatically pops up updates every 30 minutes. A little window pops up that allows them to plug in the number of people in line at their polling locations,” Nagy said.

That means the volunteers working those election tables will stand up, count noses and plug the number into their laptops.

“It will be on the website – on the voter registration site – and there will be a link as well to the election site, since they are in two different departments," Nagy said. "So, we will have the information on both sites.” 

For now, the map will only be available on the web. But, in the future, it could become a mobile app.

The immediate goal: have this first version up and running by the time early voting starts on Oct. 24.

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