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Friday, October 24th, 2008

Why Tuesday? in The New York Times

NYT Op-Ed

The following Op-Ed, penned by our board member Norman J. Ornstein and U.S. Representative Steve Israel, is running today in the New York Times.

Washington

BY Nov. 4, more than $5 billion will have been spent trying to persuade voters to cast their presidential and congressional ballots one way or another. Despite all the money and the news media hysteria, and even with record numbers of Americans heading to the polls, the United States won’t even come close to the top nations in the world for voter turnout. We will be well behind — to name just a few — Iceland, Sweden and New Zealand.

What do those countries, among many others, have in common? Their citizens all vote on a weekend day. But in the United States, for more than 150 years, we’ve voted on Tuesday. Why? It’s not in the Constitution. It isn’t to avoid holidays. And it’s not because people hate Mondays.

The reason we vote on Tuesday makes perfect sense — at least it did in 1845.

To understand the decision Congress made that year, let’s imagine ourselves as members of early agrarian American society. Saturday was for farming, Sunday was the Lord’s day, Monday was required for travel to the county seat where the polling places were, Tuesday you voted, Wednesday you returned home, and Thursday it was back to work.

It’s a safe bet that today most Americans don’t follow the same schedule as our farming forefathers. In fact, for many, Tuesday is one of the most inconvenient days to hold an election. One in four people who didn’t vote in 2006 said that they were “too busy” or had “conflicting work or school schedules.”

Legislation now before Congress would finally tailor our voting system to modern American life by establishing weekend voting for national elections. (Mr. Israel is sponsoring the bill in the House.) Here’s how it would work: The presidential election would be held on the Saturday and Sunday after the first Friday in November, while for those who aren’t often home on the weekends, there would be a few days of early voting.

Our current system penalizes single parents, people working two jobs, and those who have to choose between getting a paycheck and casting a ballot. Two weekend days of voting means those working families would have a greater chance of making it to the polls. It means easing the long lines during rush hour at the polling sites. It means more locations, more poll workers and more voters.

Some have suggested making Election Day a holiday, but that would involve a serious cost to the economy. Moving Election Day to the weekend means more convenience and less expense.

Making a change like this won’t be easy, but it’s not unprecedented. In 1968, Congress passed the Monday Holiday law, which moved Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day and Washington’s Birthday from their original dates to Mondays. If we can alter our federal holidays to benefit shoppers and travelers, surely we can change Election Day for the benefit of our voters.

Let’s take a cue from the Congress of 1845 and ensure that voting is available to as many working Americans as possible — not just those who can make it to the polls on a Tuesday.

To learn more about Why Tuesday? click here.

Illustration by Ivory Simms for The New York Times.

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Why Tuesday? in TIME Magazine

TIME

Make sure to pick up the Election Week edition of TIME Magazine. Managing Editor Richard Stengel gives us a shout-out in his article “Closing In on Election Day.” Here’s the relevant excerpt:

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, we will be selecting our next President. Here’s my question: Why Tuesday? If your answer was, Because that’s the way we’ve always done it, you’d be right. We’ve been doing it that way since 1845, and the murky reasons for it are that nobody wanted to vote on the Sabbath and voters needed time to travel by horse and buggy. But I’ve long thought–as have many others–that holding an election on a workday is undemocratic and makes it difficult for people to fulfill their signal act of civic participation. Either change it to Saturday, or make Election Day a holiday.

The fact that so many states now allow early voting or no-fault absentee voting is a good thing. But as a nation that is the beacon of democracy, we sure make it hard for people to participate. The American registration system is far more local and decentralized than that of almost any other Western democracy, and we pay a price for it. As Michael Scherer’s story points out, on Nov. 4 a host of problems could arise from issues such as inaccurate registration databases, badly designed ballots and confusing rules. While those problems may not be determinative or alter the result, they could, and the fact that we allocated nearly $3 billion through the Help America Vote Act in the past six years without much improving the system is a scandal. Both Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Representative Steve Israel of New York have introduced a Weekend Voting Act, and you can find out more about these issues at WhyTuesday.org and FairVote.org.

For the full article, click here.

Read the complete explanation of why we vote on Tuesday over here.

If you’re new here, 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. Make a tax-deductible donation to us by clicking “donate” on any page on our website.

Previously: Why Tuesday? in TIME… kinda

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Brokaw, Olbermann on Why Tuesday?

While I was at the Democratic National Convention earlier this week, some of you told us that Tom Brokaw of NBC News spoke on-air about Why Tuesday? and our efforts to make the state of America’s voting system an issue our elected officials cannot afford to avoid. Well, I found the clip! (more…)

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Why Tuesday? on MobLogic.tv

In late June I first had the opportunity to meet Lindsay Campbell and her colleagues from the CBS Interactive news vlog MobLogic.tv at Personal Democracy Forum 2008 in New York City. We chatted briefly about voter participation and it made it into the July 4th episode of MobLogic.

Later that week I headed from Midtown, NYC to the streets of NoLita, NYC to check out their base of operations and talk more with Lindsay about the state of our voting system, what we do here at Why Tuesday?, and how it’s making election reform an issue our elected officials cannot afford to avoid. Check it out, and follow them on Twitter. And follow us on Twitter while you’re at it!

And one more thing — if you’re new here, meet our latest correspondent, U.S. Representative Steve Israel, sponsor of the Weekend Voting Act in the House of Representatives. Well, two more things. Why do we vote on Tuesday? Here’s the answer.

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Wolf Blitzer Is Into Weekend Voting

Blitzer

CNN Internet reporter Abbi Tatton today featured the video of the newest Why Tuesday? Correspondent, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, during the 4PM and 6PM eastern time editions of The Situation Room.

Host Wolf Blitzer sang weekend voting’s praises, agreeing with Jack Cafferty when he said that changing voting “to a weekend is the single best idea I’ve heard in a long time.”

We’ll work on tracking down the video; for now we have the full transcript for you. (more…)

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Why Tuesday? in Newsday *

Newsday

As I just Tweeted, Newsday is running this article today about U.S. Rep. Steve Israel’s gig as a Why Tuesday? Correspondent and his work to push the Weekend Voting Act, which he introduced. On that note, Doug Chapin of ElectionLine.org says in the article he doesn’t think changing Election Day is going to help voter participation.

“Tuesday has history and inertia on its side,” said Chapin. “Changing it is more trouble than leaving it where it is.”

With the article, Newsday is running some exclusive video we provided them of Rep. Israel’s interview with Rep. Gary Ackerman, of New York, like Israel.

* UPDATE: Please see the comment from Doug Chapin of electionline.org for a clarification.

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

Recent Comments

Patrick, France is a post-Christian secular country. Relatively few of them attend church, and voting on Sunday does not interfere with their religious practices, because most of the population is not religious...

Posted by John on blog post Why Do We Vote On Tuesday?

In France they last voted on a Sunday. France is despite the Bourbon legacy a largely Catholic country, yet they vote on Sunday...

Posted by Patrick on blog post Why Do We Vote On Tuesday?

I think weekend voting would make the most sense, as people wouldn't have tu run home after work or wake up early to hit the polling stations beforehand.

Posted by Zander on blog post Why Do We Vote On Tuesday?