Via Julian, I find Ezra Klein and Rachel Maddow making a really good point: long waiting lines at the polls are another kind of poll tax. A time tax instead of a money tax.
And as one of Klein’s commenters points out, this kind of tax may have been used to disenfranchise certain groups – by, for instance, having fewer (and less functional) voting machines in poorer districts.
But given that some amount of waiting is almost inevitable, what, I wonder, would constitute an even playing field for all groups? Equalizing waiting time wouldn’t work, because the opportunity cost of time is generally greater for the rich than for the poor. Think about the relative sacrifice involved in voting for an unemployed person versus a lawyer who earns $600/hour. If equal money taxes are more burdensome for the poor, equal time taxes are more burdensome for the rich.
To get things on absolutely equal footing, you’d need to equalize utility costs, not time or money costs. But the interpersonal comparability of utility is problematic at best, which is why I suspect there’s no objective answer to the question. The truly interesting point is that voting outcomes are sensitive to seemingly unimportant logistical aspects of the voting structure. Yet another reason that we cannot regard democracy as a process of revealing the general will. There is no such thing.