Why is Tuesday election day?
Today is Tuesday, Nov. 8. That is to say, it’s the Tuesday following the first Monday of November. Which means it’s election day. Which is insane.
Today is a workday. Today is a school day. Today is not a convenient day to hold an election. So why do we hold it today? Because “in 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for Americans to vote. We were an agrarian society. We traveled by horse and buggy. Farmers needed a day to get to the county seat, a day to vote, and a day to get back, without interfering with the three days of worship. So that left Tuesday and Wednesday, but Wednesday was market day. So, Tuesday it was.”
That’s according to the “Why Tuesday” campaign, which also notes that the United States ranks near the bottom of all industrialized countries in voter turnout. They’re calling for all “presidential candidates to create, support and enact The Voting Rights Act of 2012.” What will that legislation say? Well, that hasn’t been decided yet, as far as I can tell. The idea, for now, is to simply foster a discussion about voting rights.
I preferred one of the solutions Why Tuesday previously floated: The Weekend Voting Act. The bill, which has been introduced by Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), is very simple: it moves the election to the first full weekend in November. That would give us two full days to vote—days when most of us don’t have to go to work or drop the kids at school. It would also give us an electoral schedule that can be explained without referencing 1845, market days, or agrarian societies. And wouldn’t that be nice?
Related: The New York Times discusses whether voting should be mandatory.