Posted by Kendall
As we settle into the 2012 primary season, there is something that I hope American voters will notice: even though we usually vote on Tuesdays, we don’t have to. South Carolina’s GOP primary will be held on Saturday, January 21st and Louisiana’s will be on Saturday, March 24. Similarly, most of the caucuses held all over the country will not be on Tuesdays either.
Voting on Tuesdays is an antiquated and inherently discriminatory process. People who work long hours, travel for work or have multiple jobs are often unable to take time out of their day to go vote. Those who are paid hourly wages often do not feel like they can afford to take time off to go to a polling station.
Most elections are held on Tuesdays instead of during the weekend because that fit better with the agrarian calendar that dominated 19th century American life. According to Why Tuesday? it took many people in the 1850s over a day to travel to their polling stations, so voting had to take place on Tuesdays or Wednesdays so that people would be home in time for church on Sunday. Wednesdays were market days, so Tuesday was the day chosen.
The California Voter Foundation did a study on why people don’t vote and about ¼ of infrequent or unregistered voters said that they don’t vote because they are too busy on a weekday. The spokesman for the Foundation said that the answer to this problem was to try and inform more people about the advantages of early voting or voting by absentee ballot, but I disagree.
As a college student who often votes by absentee ballot, I can definitively say that voting by absentee ballot is tedious. The opportunities for error on casting an absentee ballot along with questionable vote-counting procedures can cause absentee ballots not to be included in election counts. For these reasons and others, very few people vote absentee except in presidential elections.
Without overhauling the entire American education system, one answer to solving America’s exceptionally low voter turn-out would be to hold elections on Saturdays and Sundays. Opponents of this plan say that it would cost too much money, because election officials would have to be paid double (for working two days instead of one), but if polls were open for half the time each day, approximately 6.5 hours depending on the state, the government wouldn’t have to pay more and a much wider variety of people would have the opportunity to vote. This would not only make it easier for people who work on the weekdays to vote, but it would also allay the concerns of religious people who may not be able to vote on one of the two days of the weekend.
Considering that we get about a 50% voter turn-out in each presidential election, I think it’s clear that we need a change in our system and that Tuesdays just aren’t cutting it anymore. We need to start asking politicians to take accountability for this broken system. Voting on Tuesdays discriminates against the working class, it hurts our American democratic system and it ridicules the premise that everyone gets a vote in our elections.
Politicians, I implore you, don’t let another election go by, change election day so that anyone who wants to vote can go to the polls on Saturday November 3 or Sunday November 4 this year.