On Election Day last week, I led my colleagues, voting rights advocate Martin Luther King III, and co-founders of Why Tuesday? in calling for the passage of my bill, the Weekend Voting Act. This important legislation would move elections to Saturday and Sunday and make it easier for people to get out and vote.
The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. In 1845, more than 170 years ago, Congress decided that voting on a Tuesday made the most sense. It was the easiest day for farmers in our formerly-agrarian society to get to the polls because it was “court day” and land-owners would typically be in town to conduct business. Well, times have changed and Tuesday voting doesn’t make sense anymore.
Instituting weekend voting would make it more convenient for all Americans to exercise their right to vote, helping reduce long lines at the polls and increasing voter turnout, Currently, most polls are only open 12 hours—from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.—for one day during the work week. Extending voting hours to span two days would mean that students, seniors, and those who work the night shift would have enough time to cast their ballots.
If this sounds like a radical idea, consider this: elections in France are held on a Sunday, and the French saw a voter turnout of 75 percent of eligible voters this year while our 2016 election saw 58 percent of voters go to the polls. In 2012, France’s voter turnout was 80 percent while ours was 54 percent.
If we want to strengthen our democracy, we must make it easier for Americans to vote, plain and simple. That’s why I will continue to push for the passage of the Weekend Voting Act to ensure that the path to the ballot box is clear for everyone.