Ryan J. Suto's Blog

13 January 2012

Keep Tuesday

A big question in American electoral administration is to what extent voter turnout is affected by the day of the week we vote; Tuesday. As the U.S. faces low voter turnout, any administrative barriers to voting should be reformed.

Yesterday the GAO released a report titled Views on Implementing Federal Elections on a Weekend. However, the first sentence of the concluding paragraph of that report begins with “Weekend elections have not been studied, but studies of other voting alternatives determined that voter turnout is not strongly affected by them.” So, apparently when the GAO discussed elections on the weekend, it doesn’t study weekend elections. Fabulous.

So why do we vote on Tuesday in the first place? I’ll let WhyTuesday? answer that one. But the important question remains: would voter turnout increase with a move on the calendar? I’m not so sure.

As the Washington Post reported, South Carolina has moved its attempt to vote on Saturdays out of respect for the Jewish community in that state. That makes sense; while overall turnout may possibly increase, alienating an entire religious group is generally not advisable for democratic governance. That takes Sunday and Friday out, as well. But the bigger point about the weekend is that Americans love their weekends. We work a lot, and perish the thought of adding duties to our weekends. We have children to spend time with, projects to continue, football to watch, and many other things. Using about as much empirical evidence as the GAO, I would not favor a move of Election Day to the weekend.

However, the huge problem with voting during the work week is that many people, uh, work. Many can’t afford to leave their jobs or children and go and vote. As such, whichever day we vote should be a federal holiday, with as many establishments open as would be on Thanksgiving. But even so, which day? The first logical answer may be Monday—presently we have several holidays observed on Mondays. The problem is that creates a three-day weekend. Who’d want to lose a three-day weekend by staying home and voting, when that’s the perfect opportunity to take a small vacation? That’s what Americans do: the only thing we love more than weekends are longer weekends!

I think you get the point. We’ve arrived where we started. While the reasons for voting on Tuesday are horribly anachronistic, the real evil for voter turnout is that Election Day is not a federal holiday with most public and private establishments (including schools) having the day off. While Wednesday and Thursday are both still on the table, I don’t see an advantage to those days over Tuesday.

Voter turnout should be primarily concerned with equally increasing the number of people willing and able to vote. I think the best way to do this is to in fact keep Tuesday, and make that day a less busy one, allowing working Americans across the board to commit to their civic duty.

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