Jake Levine: Barack Obama and Barney Frank on “Why Tuesday?”
Sunday, April 22nd, 2007
Well, we can add yet another name to the list of 2008 presidential candidates that we’ve asked why we vote on Tuesday. We just got an e-mail from Harvard University senior Jake Levine, who was on the case last week, snagging two big-time interviews in the Boston area with Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Representative Barney Frank (D-MA). It turns out neither knows why we vote on Tuesday, but both like the idea of weekend voting.
Levine caught up with Obama as he was leaving a rally at the Boston University Agganis Arena. He e-mails that he had some camera phone technical difficulties during his Obama interview:
Unfortunately, the thing only takes 15 second videos at a time, and the sound is hard to pick up. This is what it missed: Obama thinks elections should be on a weekend. And he insists that they are traditionally held on Tuesdays because it is a state’s decision and each state has decided to be consistent with Tuesday.
Senator Obama raises an interesting question: what can individual states do to help increase voter turnout? Today 35 states allow people, without any explanation, to vote in-person or by mail over a wide variety of dates ranging from 15-31 days prior to the election. But the root of the problem, as you may know, is that we vote on Tuesday because of an 1845 federal law that was passed when 80% of Americans lived on farms. At the time it could often take a day or longer to get to the polls, and Congress did not want this travel to conflict with days of religious observance, which left Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday was market day. So: Tuesday.
In the second video, Congressman Frank says he has “no idea” why we vote on Tuesday, but his “intuitive answer [to the question] is let’s do it on the weekend.” Levine said this interview was a little easier to come by, and more intimate:
… there were none of the usual photographers, security, or nuisance that usually comes along with a high-profile speaker at the Kennedy School or other function. So it was easy in that sense to get ahold of the Congressman, and I think he was more than happy to talk.
Here at WT? we’re trying to start a national conversation about election reform. Voting is the right on which all others are based, and too few Americans are exercising that right. How can we do better? We think that moving Election Day from the middle of the week might be one answer. We’re trying to show that we ALL can and MUST bring our lawmakers and representatives – with whom these decisions ultimately rest – into the dialogue if we’re going to see a change. So join us and Get Out The Why!