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Welcome to Get Out the Why!

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

Welcome, and thanks for checking out Get Out the Why. We’re hoping and betting that this post will be buried beneath video submissions in the coming weeks, but for now it’s a nice chance to tell you a little bit about why we’re doing this.

We’re concerned about voter turnout in America. Lots of people are- if you’re reading this, you may well be. And we appreciate that it’s a very complex debate. But we think one area that’s often overlooked is simple and structural: why do we hold Election Day, the most widely publicized and best known opportunity to exercise the franchise, on a single day in the middle of the work/school week?

When Why Tuesday? got started, about a year ago, we started asking everyone this question- do you know why we vote on Tuesdays? And no one did. Really, no one; we asked people whose professional lives depend on Tuesday elections- politicians, commentators, and journalists- and no one knew. The historical reason is interesting (you can read about it at www.whytuesday.org), but it also relates to a serious question in the present: Tuesday voting was selected for the way American voters lived 160 years ago; shouldn’t we at least consider whether it’s time to update our system for how we live in the 21st century?

GOTW is a fun way to get everyone involved in this debate. We’re not advocating a particular solution, and we welcome a discussion on this blog of anything geared to helping more Americans vote. We’re also not out to “get” any politicians here- our goal is to get the question out there, putting it in people’s minds in an engaging way. We’re hoping that GOTW will encourage many Americans- both elected officials and private citizens- to consider the merits and drawbacks of Tuesday voting, and how reform in this and other areas might help all Americans exercise our most fundamental right and responsibility.

8 Responses to “Welcome to Get Out the Why!”

  1. libra Says:

    Feels strange to be posting the very first comment… But here goes:

    Finally! For the past 33 yrs I’ve been pondering the same (WHY TUESDAY???)question…

    I grew up in a country where, as my Mother put it, “one could vote, but one could not elect” — communist Poland. But, at least, we did our voting (not compulsory as in Oz but, if you didn’t show up at the polls by 6PM, the Party aparatchiks would come and pester you, offering rides, etc. The aim was to be able to say that at least 90% voted) on Sundays; the one day of the week when fewest people had to work. Since the fall of communism (and the reduction of the work-week to 5 days), I understand that people now can vote on either Saturday or Sunday, but it’s the same principle — make it convenient.

    Also… Make it “a big event”. An exciting one. One where the entire family can participate. Even in our — admittedly stifled and stunted — situation, Election Day was something out of the ordinary. When I was little, my parents and I would walk to the precinct after lunch, and I would get to “hide behind the curtain” with each of them. Afterwards, we’d go out for an ice cream, and they’d explain what the day was all about (though I didn’t hear the “you can vote, but” until I was 18 and getting ready for the first vote of my own).

    When I went to vote as an adult (twice: at 18 and at 22; I came to US at 23), I noticed that the poll-workers were dressed in their Sunday best and that they *beamed* at me. “Thank you for coming; your vote is important”.

    I have questioned the Election Tuesday ever since I came here, and watched my husband come home as on any other day. Since I became eligible to vote in US (20+ yrs ago), I’ve been missing that excitement on my own and my (then small) son’s account. Where are the fanfares? The feeling of importance? The sense of the day being out of the ordinary?

    For that matter… Why November? The weather is so lousy, it discourages one from leaving the warmth of one’s house. Why not the 4th of July — a holiday which almost everyone celebrates? And what more natural than celebrating the Independence Day by exercising one’s right — and obligation — to vote?

  2. James Carmichael Says:

    Libra-
    Thanks a ton for your post. I’ve heard similar stories from other friends who grew up in Communist Eastern Europe, and it’s really valuable to get that perspective and comparison.

    It does seem to be common sense to hold elections when more people can vote, and when the nation can really focus its attention on the elections and make them, as you say, a big deal. If you check out the Why Tuesday? site, you’ll see that the reason we vote on Tuesday is basically because of an old law that’s now become habit-forming; it seems more inertia than anything else.

    I believe that we vote in November because of the harvest, by the way. Again, probably somewhat antiquated reasoning.

    Thanks again; please check back to the site for more clips and info.

  3. libra Says:

    I believe that we vote in November because of the harvest,

    Well then… The harvest festival here is Thanksgiving — a Thursday. Extend the holiday. Friday for the sales (support your economy ) as it’s now, then Saturday and/or Sunday for voting (support your Constitution).

    Of course, grafting the Election Day onto an already-existing holiday would probably require some “quadrille dancing” in keeping the voter logs, since people tend to travel away from their precincts a lot, when they have an extended weekend. But, as more people are becoming distrustful of the paperless Diebold and are opting for absentee ballots *anyway*, it wouldn’t, necessarily, spoil the fun for the families who stay put.

    I still think the weather in November spoils half the pleasure. Why not in spring, when all kinds of hopes converge? The Monday after the Easter Sunday, for example? It’s a pagan holiday (doubtless why the Polish govt was happy to observe it ), but I dare say American Christians would not refuse having a free day any more than the Polish ones did.

    Thanks for the site; you can *bet* I’ll be visiting it frequently 🙂 Saw your first two clips today. Being unashamedly partisan, I was happy to see that a *Dem* representative knew more about the origin of the Tuesday than a Repub one 🙂

  4. James Carmichael Says:

    libra,

    i hear you on the weather- and you’re right that injecting some fun and vitality into the whole Election Day ritual (as Congressman Ryan noted) is a really important goal.

    Thanksgiving holiday’s an interesting suggestion as well. I think that the concern you bring up might do the idea in- I believe that Thanksgiving is the most traveled on American holiday, and that would probably just wreak too much havoc on our current systems. Although, as you say, if we start moving more and more to absentee, mail-in, or even Internet voting, there’s nothing to say that might not eventually be a great idea.

    Yeah, Congressman Ryan knew his stuff. But if you check out the new clip of Feingold, you’ll see that Dems are as easy to trip up with this one as members of the G.O.P. What’s interesting is how representatives on BOTH sides of the aisle- even those who’ve thought about this issue- really just don’t know the answer ’cause Tuesday voting is something we all just assume.

    But keep watching, and keep piping up. Right now it’s just you and me having a conversation, but hopefully others’ll catch on soon. This is definitely an issue that deserves all the attention it can get.

  5. libra Says:

    Yeah, it’s just you and me at the moment, and it does feel lonely… 🙂 But I think that once the current Election Tuesday is over, things may change. It’s too late now to change the date/day for this year. And most of us are as busy as can be doing the last-minute things in “real world”, so we don’t have any to spare on philosophical discussions that aren’t of immediate importance.

    But I think the coming Elections may actually feed in quite nicely into the issue of “why Tuesday???” No matter who wins, there are likely to be lots of complaints — on both sides — about election “irregularities” (who’s not afraid of paperless Diebold? And voter suppression, via various tricks?) Which might, hopefully, start a *serious* discussion about electoral reform. And any electoral reform is likely to touch on the cockamamie idea of voting on Tuesdays…

    Afterall, as you yourself point out, 2 out of 3 Americans don’t think it’s a good idea, because the original logic behind it is no longer valid.

    BTW… The second Election Day (Saturday) has been added to the original Sunday for a reason similiar to the one the Tuesday vote was based on. In the early days, travelling on Sunday was a no-no. To this day, a lot of Polish Catholics feel that Sunday should be reserved for Church’s rather than Caesar’s matters, so don’t feel comfortable going to the polls on that day. So it’s Saturday for them. OTOH, Sunday should fit in nicely with the Orthodox Jews’ views…

  6. James Carmichael Says:

    Libra,

    I think that same reasoning applies today: you don’t want the vote to conflict with anyone’s religious observance- it’s both symbolically and practically a terrible idea. For those considering weekend voting seriously, most people talk about a two-day Saturday-Sunday gig, or perhaps one 24 hours slug from noon Saturday to noon Sunday.

    You’re right about the elections and everyone’s attention, although the media does seem to be picking up on GOTW, which is exciting. In terms of a serious discussion about election reform- that’s of course the more sober goal of this playful competition. To a large extent, that has to be catalyzed by us, “private citizens.” Everyone interviewed in these clips- and everyone that we as Why Tuesday? have spoken to- supports reform to make voting easier, and can talk about mail-in voting, early voting, making Tuesday a holiday- whatever their favored solution is. So why hasn’t it happened? Why did Senator Kohl’s bill never really get off the ground? Because this isn’t an issue, right now, that pols and their campaign managers can rely on to light up voters. We need to change that- we definitely have to get our leaders talking, but the way to do that is to be talking ourselves and let them know that we care about election reform.

    Which is a long-winded way of saying thanks for writing again, and keep posted on the site as we continue to push things forward.

  7. Lucas Says:

    What you guys are doing is great. Your videos are well done and you handle yourselves well. The coolest thing about what you’re doing is that it shows that politicians aren’t as hard to interact with as one might think. Apparently you dont have to have ties to the press or any special clout to reserve a few minutes of their time, and I think demonstrating that is very important. It shows that anybody can be involved if you’re tenacious enough.

    Do you think you could describe the process you went through to contact the people you have interviewed? Was it really as simple as showing up at the event with a camera and trying to get their attention? How difficult was it to get time to sit down with Mr. Kohl one on one? Also, what inspired you guys to put this together?

    This is great stuff guys, thanks for taking the time to do this.

  8. Barnett A. Zitron Says:

    Lucas,

    Check the main blog page for our response, and get a video camera and confront your elected officials.

    Best,
    Barnett

About Us

Why Tuesday? is a non-partisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2005 to find solutions to increase voter turnout and participation in elections... More

The Answer

In 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for Americans to vote... More

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