Stuck in Line at a Polling Place? This Nonprofit Will Send You Free Pizza

Melissa Goldberg
·3 min read
Photo credit: Karl Tapales - Getty Images
Photo credit: Karl Tapales - Getty Images

From Oprah Magazine

Picture it: You slip away from your office—or work-from-home setup—at lunchtime during early voting or on Election Day to cast your ballot, but the line at your polling site is out the door and down the block. An hour later, you’re hangry and thinking of giving up. Don’t! Instead of bailing on your civic duty, you can contact Pizza to the Polls, a nonprofit that sends free hot pies to crowded voting stations.

The nonpartisan organization started providing tasty reinforcements in the days before the November 2016 election, when three coworkers in Oregon grew alarmed by reports of three- and four-hour waits at early-voting sites in other states. (In Cincinnati, one line stretched half a mile.) “We knew we couldn’t make the process move faster, but we could help keep people from leaving,” says cofounder Katie Harlow. “We thought, What’s something most people really like? Free food!

A few hours later, the trio had a name, a Twitter handle, a website, and a plan: To report long lines, voters submit a social media post documenting the crowd size to the nonprofit’s website. Pizza to the Polls then uses money donated by fellow citizens to have pies delivered from a local pizzeria. To date, the group has sent more than 16,500 pepperoni, cheese, veggie, barbecue, and Hawaiian pizzas to voting sites in 41 states, from New York to California, and to events like protests, rallies, and teach-outs—thanks to nearly $500,000 in dough from small-dollar donors. "I like to think of Pizza to the Polls as a sort of last-ditch effort to do something good for another community," says Harlow. "When you're sitting at home, watching news reports of long lines in Illinois or Texas, and wondering, how can I help from 3,000 miles away? That's where we come in."

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced Pizza to the Polls to temporarily pause its operations during the primary elections, the grassroots organization is back (with new safety measures) and bigger than ever. Earlier this month, the group announced that in addition to its on-demand delivery services, it would also deploy a fleet of over 185 food trucks to 25 cities across the country, including Houston, Raleigh, Tampa, Detroit, Milwaukee, Louisville, and Los Angeles. "[The] new food truck program is a response to record voting interest amid a pandemic causing many in-person voting locations to see longer wait times," Pizza to the Polls said in a statement. "Poll worker shortages may limit the number of polling places and social distancing measures are extending lines and limiting the number of people who can vote at one time." That scenario seems to be playing out nationwide: In Georgia, early voters at some polling places waited in line for up to eight hours; over the weekend, New Yorkers waited up to four hours to cast their ballot; In Texas, people stood in lines that snaked through parking lots and around voting locations for over three hours; and, in Ohio, lines stretched for a quarter of a mile when early voting kicked off earlier this month. (But don't worry: In many states, early voters reported the process taking five minutes, max, so don't let this deter you.)

Luckily, though, if hiccups, headaches, and hunger pangs arise, Pizza to the Polls is ready to fuel democracy, one slice at a time.

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