Record GOP Turnout, On Saturdays
Monday, March 26th, 2012
Two of the most hotly-contested primary states this year, South Carolina and Louisiana, produced their highest-ever voter turnout for a Republican presidential primary election while voting on Saturdays. Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary with the majority of the record-setting 21% of GOP primary voters who showed up on a Saturday in January. And over the weekend Rick Santorum took home the W in Louisiana when a record-breaking 917,046 people showed up to vote, according to this tweet from Trip Gabriel at the New York Times.
Though turnout at first seemed low in LA primary, it actually set a record: 186,400, up 25,000 from 2008. Motivated Santo voters?
— Trip Gabriel (@tripgabriel) March 25, 2012
Voting on a Tuesday, a holdover from agricultural society, is an anachronism that keeps working people from the polls. Frankly, American voters need the weekend option more, not less, than workers elsewhere. Study after study shows that Americans work longer hours, with fewer vacations than Europeans, Canadians — even the Japanese.
The naysayers are already complaining about the cost, but they are wrong. As the election authority for Cook County, the nation’s third largest jurisdiction, I know we can manage weekend voting and I am eager to explore the benefits. Instead of only relying on retired and unemployed poll workers, we can also recruit professionals and a new generation of civic-minded citizens who value voting as a patriotic duty and are eager to help.
Of course, there’s no silver bullet to increasing America’s terrible voter turnout, and some presidential contests this year didn’t see record turnout on the weekend. To be sure, a turnout rate of 21% in South Carolina and just over 10% in Louisiana isn’t anything to honor with an award. But weekend voting will help bring America’s dismal voter turnout, which ranks behind most other countries in the world, out of the gutter — especially in the 15 states that vote only on Tuesdays.
This year I’ve crisscrossed the country with the help of Participant Media’s TakePart.com to find out what the GOP presidential candidates think about moving Election Day to the weekend. Newt Gingrich told me he doesn’t support the idea. Mitt Romney doesn’t support it either, according to an interview with a local Michigan reporter. Rick Santorum, on the other hand, was open to the idea saying there’s nothing “magical” about Tuesdays.
Lest we forget, four years ago, Barack Obama told me he’s open to the idea of weekend voting, too:
You can support the Weekend Voting Act by signing our petition to the President and Congress now.