Saturday, April 5, 2008

Why Tuesday?

Why Tuesday?

I listen to Air America quite a bit. I mostly listen to Thom Hartmann and Rachael Maddow, but I will have it on the in background just to break the silence. I tend to absorb interesting information and trivia through osmosis even when I'm not really LISTENING per se.

Lately a couple of different shows have had on people from Why Tuesday? on to discuss their organization. Why Tuesday? is and organization dedicated to improving our democracy by increasing voter participation. (The United States is ranked in the bottom third of all industrialized countries in voter participation.) One of the avenues they are pursuing to increase voter turnout is to get a discussion going on why we still have elections on Tuesdays.

Apparently the reason we started having elections on the first Tuesday in November was it was the end of harvest season and people would be free to travel to the polling locations. This obviously isn't a relevant reason in modern America because not only are we an increasingly urban society, modern farmers have the ability to jump in their truck and drive to their poling location without too much bother.

So Why Tuesday? The most benign reason I can think of is simply tradition. We have had our elections on Tuesday for so long people don't even think about it. If this is the case then it should be fairly simple to change the day to a weekend to help increase voter participation. A less benign reason is that there is a conscious effort to suppress voter participation by making it inconvenient to vote. Surpressing voter participation would not only benefit the more conservative elements of government (check out this video) but also would probably to favor ANY incumbent. This would be a reason why more liberal lawmakers might be against moving Election Day.

One objection to moving Election Day to the weekend is that people might blow off voting for their regular weekend leisure activities. I think this argument may have some merit. I know I tend to sleep in and relax on weekends, so it might be worthwhile exploring another alternative. Making Election Day a National Holiday.

Making Election Day a national holiday would cut many people free from work and giving them more time to make it to the polls. I suppose an argument could be made that having a holiday would have a similar effect to moving Election Day to a weekend, but I think it wouldn't because people wouldn't be used to slacking off on a weekday even if it was a holiday (as long as they didn't move it to a Monday to get the 3-day weekend.) There would of course be the same conservative/incumbant push against the holiday. But, the advantage of making Election Day a holiday is that it would probably be an easier sell to people than moving it in the face of the inertia of tradition and heck who doesn't want another holiday.

Why Tuesday? is leading an effort to improve voter turnout by challenging what really amounts to government tradition. I think we really need to be doing more of this kind of thing. The government shouldn't do thing because its the way we have always done it. That is a good way to keep our country hidebound, and at only 230 years old we are way to young for that.

No comments: