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U.S. Reps. Introduce Bill to Move Election Day

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Fantastic news! This morning United States Representatives Steve Israel and John Larson announced they have reintroduced the Weekend Voting Act, which would move federal Election Day to the weekend so more people can vote, into Congress. For the past seven years we have worked to make election reform, in particular the absurd and antiquated reason we vote on Tuesday an issue our elected officials cannot afford to avoid, and this legislation takes our movement one step closer to our goal.

Literally millions of people have been made aware of the backwards reason Americas vote on Tuesday by watching our videos at WhyTuesday.org. With the reintroduction of the Weekend Voting Act, now 535 members of Congress will have the opportunity to add their names to that list by supporting a bill that will make voting accessible for all Americans.

William J. Wachtel, the founder of Why Tuesday? said today: “I founded Why Tuesday? in 2005 in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to shine a light on America’s broken voting system, and to make election reform an issue our elected officials could not avoid. With the reintroduction of the Weekend Voting Act the onus is now on the members of Congress, all whom were elected on a Tuesday, to show they are more concerned with the health of our democracy than their own job security.

The complete press release from the Congress of the United States is below.

U.S. REPS. ISREAL AND LARSON ANNOUNCE LEGISLATION TO MOVE ELECTION DAY TO WEEKEND
Voting at more convenient time will increase voter turnout

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Congressmen Steve Israel (D-NY) and John Larson (D-CT) announced legislation to change Election Day from the first Tuesday in November to the first full weekend, thereby making it more convenient for voters and increasing voter turnout.

Rep. Israel said, “Voting should be easy and accessible. This is why, in 1845, Congress decided that voting on a Tuesday made sense. It was the easiest day for farmers in our agrarian society to get to the polls. But times have changed, and Tuesday voting just doesn’t make sense anymore. By moving Election Day from a single day in the middle of the work week to a full weekend, we are encouraging more working Americans to participate. Our democracy will be best served when our leaders are elected by as many Americans as possible.”

Rep. Larson said, “As a representative democracy, voting is a fundamental responsibility for all Americans and the system should be as accessible as possible for as many as possible. Unfortunately, the system we have now was designed to meet our country’s needs over 160 years ago and it no longer makes any sense. It’s time we stop making people choose between exercising their responsibility to vote, and meeting their everyday obligations.”

The Weekend Voting Act would allow for national polls to be open from 10 a.m. (Eastern Time) Saturday to 6 p.m. (ET) Sunday in the 48 contiguous states. Election officials would be permitted to close polls during the overnight hours if they determine it would be inefficient to keep them open.

The long-standing tradition of holding federal elections on the first Tuesday of November began with an act of Congress in 1845. Tuesday was selected for its comparative convenience because it was a designated “court day” and the day in which land-owners would typically be in town to conduct business. The tradition was based on the then-agrarian American society.

Currently, most polls are open only 12 hours (from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) for one day. As seen in the 2008 and 2004 elections and primaries, long lines in many polling places kept voters waiting longer than one or two hours. Voter turnout in the United States has long lagged behind similar democracies around the world. Only 47 percent of eligible voters actually voted in the United States. In Italy, where voting takes place on the weekends, 92 percent of eligible voters voted.

Ambassador Andrew Young, Chairman of the Board of Why Tuesday?, a 501c3 non-partisan organization founded in 2005 to find solutions to increase voter turnout and participation in elections , said, “I want to commend Reps. Israel and Larson for their steadfast commitment to the issue of voting rights and protecting the right to vote. Through the challenging times of the sixties I worked alongside our nation’s leaders on both side the aisle, and of course Dr. King, to remove barriers to the franchise. Moving Election Day from Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday would be an extraordinary step to make sure all Americans have the opportunity to make their voices heard.”

Norman J. Ornstein, Why Tuesday? Board Member and Resident Scholar said, “Americans vote at a rate far behind most nations in the world — we rank 138th of 172 countries. Of the G8 nations, we rank dead last in voter turnout and five of the seven nations that vote ahead of us vote on a weekend or national holiday. Despite convenience voting options for Americans in 35 states, in 15 states voting is Tuesday-or-bust. It’s time to make this common-sense change to our voting system.”

2 Responses to “U.S. Reps. Introduce Bill to Move Election Day”

  1. “U.S. Reps. Introduce Bill to Move Election Day” | Election Law Blog Says:

    [...] Why Tuesday?: “Fantastic news! This morning United States Representatives Steve Israel and John Larson announced they have reintroduced the Weekend Voting Act, which would move federal Election Day to the weekend so more people can vote, into Congress. For the past seven years we have worked to make election reform, in particular the absurd and antiquated reason we vote on Tuesday an issue our elected officials cannot afford to avoid, and this legislation takes our movement one step closer to our goal.” This entry was posted in election administration. Bookmark the permalink. ← “DFLers push for photo ID alternative” [...]

  2. John Cunningham Says:

    I can see a problem with Saturday, since the Seventh Day Adventists and Jews (and others?) celebrate Saturday as the Sabbath. And, Sunday might be a problem, as the Christians celebrate Sunday as the Sabbath. Wonder why the answer isn’t as simple as keeping the polls open on Tuesday from 7 AM – 11 PM. Seems that would be cheaper than changing the day to the weekend and having a host of “unintended” consequences. Like a bunch of lawsuits, headed to the Supreme Court, from various religious groups arguing that they can’t practice their religion faithfully (some Jews do no “work” on the Sabbath, to keep the day Holy), and thus will be denied the vote, since voting on the Sabbath is considered “work”. Many of them don’t even drive on the Sabbath, so how would they get to the polls?

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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

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