THINK

THE BUSINESS OF VOTING EQUITY

What does voting have in common with business? Dr. Muer Yang, University of St. Thomas assistant professor, is busy finding out.

“Research with high impact — solving real problems — excites me,” says Dr. Yang, who teaches operations and supply chain management in the Opus College of Business. “Some of my research focuses on improving voting operations and voting equity for local and national elections.”

Recent elections have been fraught with long lines at the polls. “During the 2004 presidential election, for example, some voters waited more than 10 hours to cast their ballots,” he explains. “Even more disturbing were post-election allegations that systematic policy decisions suppressed certain voting segments in key states. My research colleagues and I sought to find the optimal allocation of voting machines to provide voters equal waiting time regardless of polling place — and equal access to the election process.”

RESEARCH WITH HIGH IMPACT — SOLVING REAL PROBLEMS — EXCITES ME.

Muer and his team worked with officials at the Board of Elections in Franklin County, Ohio. “We used Franklin County’s 2008 presidential election data,” he recalls. “Under simulation, our allocation of voting machines shortened the average voter wait time by 36 percent and could’ve resulted in 23,000 fewer people in Franklin County waiting more than 30 minutes to vote in that election.”

The result? The passage of Ohio’s House Bill #260. Muer’s team was directly involved in drafting the bill, which addresses many of the concerns regarding operational issues in elections — and planning tools that can be shared with local election boards across the country.

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