Polling Place Queue Bottleneck Analysis

Managing the flow of voters through a polling place starts with identifying the bottleneck of the process. The bottleneck (or 'rate-limiting-step') is the step of the process that constrains the flow of voters and delays other processes from occurring.

Use This Tool To:

  • Evaluate a polling place's bottleneck and utilization
  • Determine the impact of social distancing changes

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Choose System Setup:

Voter Arrival Rate

Voter Arrival Rate (Voters/Hour)

Polling Place Characteristics

Input Statistics Calculated Statistics
Task Number of Stations Average Time to Complete Task (min) Capacity (voters/hr) Utilization (%)
Check In

Social Distancing Changes

Check each box below to explore how COVID-related changes may affect your bottleneck
Change Parameter
Percent Reduction
Cleaned every (N) voters
Additional Minutes
% of in-person voters now absentee


New Voter Arrival Rate

Voter Arrival Rate (Voters/Hour)

New Polling Place Characteristics

Task Number of Stations Average Time to Complete Task (min) Capacity (voters/hr) Utilization (%)
Check In

Input Data Description

Polling Place Characteristics

  • System Setup: Use the dropdown to change the polling place setup
  • Number of stations: The number of voters who can be served simultaneously at each step in the process
  • Average Times: The average time each voter spends at each station

Voter Arrival Rate

  • Arrival Rate: The average rate (voters/hour) that arrive at the polling place

Social Distancing Changes

  • Check each box to activate or de-activate a COVID-driven change
  • Each input box has a parameter which controls the change

Model Assumptions

This tool uses makes calculations to determine the bottleneck, throughput capacity, and utilization of a multi-step voting process.

The tool allows for the selection of different COVID-19 protocols and will calculate the impact on service stations, service times, capacities, and the bottlenecks of the process after accounting for these new protocols. These outputs are estimates based on the original data entered and the selection and parameters associated with each of the COVID-19 measures

The four parameters are detailed here:

  • Fewer Voting Booths: Number of service stations in the voting process reduced by the fraction entered
  • Cleaning Booths: The service time of voting is increased as if an additional person were sent through to clean the booth every few voters. This cleaning is assumed to take as long as voting
  • Longer Check In Time: This increases the check in time by a certain number of minutes. We assume that times will increase due to additional necessary safety steps
  • Increase in Absentee: This reduces the voter arrival rate by some percentage, impacting the future voter arrival rate and the utilization of the future system.

Calculation Descriptions:

  • Capacity: The maximum capacity of this step in the voting process. The minimum capacity is flagged with an exclamation point
  • Utilization: The expected utilization of this step given that the process as a whole will have a voter throughput equal to the minimum of the voter arrival rate and the bottleneck capacity.

Developers: Stephen Graves and Colin McIntyre

© 2020 The Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project All rights reserved.