Election Day – of the week?

Our election day, for unremarkable reasons, has been set by law, since 1845, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

And, our country has one of the free world’s lowest voter participation rates.

It’s impossible to think those two facts are completely unrelated!

For years people have suggested that we should move our election day to a weekend (with one or two days of in-person voting), or make Election Day a national holiday, to make it easier for many working people to get to the polls without missing work and pay.

Without testing real turnout differences in a number of different places over a period of time, effects of such changes would only be a matter of speculation. But either approach is unlikely to decrease turnout, so why not try? That’s where politics comes in and exposes one of the most odious aspects of modern governance.

There is a basic assumption that making it easier for working people to vote will likely increase the number of working-class voters. Historically, that would tend to increase liberal and Democrat votes.

The result is not only a refusal to make Election Day more accessible to more people, but an active and determined effort to use the levers of government to reduce voter participation (e.g., voter ID laws, reduction of polling places in minority communities, etc.)

The consequence is the undermining of the very basis of democracy, a fair and open election.

How can reasonable rational, purportedly democracy-loving people object to testing the effect of different voting days on voter turnout?

Obviously, the day of an election is not the only important variable in voter participation. It would be easy to test possible changes independently of each other, over several cycles. A voting “window”, as our republic originally had, might allow different states to test different approaches, although it’s uncertain how to prevent a state voting earlier from influencing later-voting states (not a problem back when it took weeks to tabulate and communicate the results).

But plenty of options exist that don’t risk undue influence. A nation that truly embraces its democratic principles should try anything and everything to increase participation in its most basic rite. That we instead use the democratic process and authority of government to manipulate the voting population for political purposes remains a stain on our history.


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