January 8, 2009

Voting After Church on Sunday Morning

Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) have announced the introduction of the "Weekend Voting Act" in both the Senate and the House of Representatives (no bill number assigned as of this post). The legislation would move Election Day from the first Tuesday in November to the first full weekend in November (similar legislation first introduced in 2002 - the proposal failed that year as well as in subsequent sessions of Congress).

"Holding elections on the first Tuesday of November makes it difficult, even impossible, for many Americans with work and family responsibilities to exercise their fundamental right to vote. Weekend voting would remove unnecessary obstacles to voting and ensure more fair, open, and credible elections for citizens to choose their representatives in government," Kohl said.

In 1845 when Congress decided that America should vote on a Tuesday it made sense. It was the easiest day for farmers in our agrarian society to get to the polls since Monday was "market day" and they were in town to sell their crops. Additionally, Tuesdays were a designated "court day" in which land-owners would typically be in town to conduct business.


Weekend voting would bring more voters to the polls


Times have obviously changed. At the same time, many other countries have tried weekend elections for sometime and the experience has been positive - and also well received by voters since they have more discretionary time available.

Voting should be easy. It should be accessible. It should be convenient for a modern lifestyle. It should encourage Americans to participate.

The Weekend Voting Act would mandate 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.

In today's America, 60 percent of all households have two working adults. Since most polls are open only 12 hours or so - voters only have one or two hours to vote before or after work. As seen in the November 2008 Presidential election, long lines in many polling places across the country kept voters waiting for up to seven hours.

The number one reason given by nonvoters for not casting a ballot is that they're too busy. Like Election Day Registration, weekend voting is a win for voters.

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