On Election Day, Slaughter Leads Members, Voting Rights Advocates in Calling for Weekend Voting to Increase Turnout
WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter (NY-25) today led members of Congress and voting rights advocates Martin Luther King III, civil rights leader and president of the group Why Tuesday?, and Norm Ornstein and Bill Wachtel, co-founders Why Tuesday?, at a press conference calling for passage of H.R. 1094, the Weekend Voting Act. Slaughter introduced this legislation to move Election Day from the first Tuesday in November to the first Saturday and Sunday after the first Friday in November, making it more convenient for voters and increasing turnout. Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island.
“Today is Election Day and if past is prologue we will see another day of abysmal voter turnout. Many Americans, including seniors, students, and those who work night shifts, will be unable to cast their ballot due to the restrictive and outdated requirement of holding elections one day during the week. There is nothing special about holding elections on a Tuesday when so many find it difficult to vote. It is past time to give all voters a clear path to the ballot box and that begins with passing the Weekend Voting Act,” said Slaughter.
“Every eligible voter should vote, but our outdated voting system stands in the way of greater voter participation. America has evolved since Congress set Tuesday as Election Day in 1845 and our voting practices should evolve too to encourage citizens to participate in our democracy,” said Senator Reed, who introduced the Weekend Voting Act (S. 1828) in the U.S. Senate. “It is time for Congress to update the law and make it more convenient for Americans to cast their ballots. There are other steps we need to take to improve our voting systems, but the Weekend Voting Act is a simple, commonsense proposal that gives Americans the freedom to vote during times that make sense for them.”
“I want to thank Congresswoman Louise Slaughter for her leadership on this issue and her passion about ensuring that more Americans can vote, which is an essential foundation for our democracy to flourish. The Weekend Voting Act is a key way to make voting easier for eligible Americans, and to allow our elections to fit the lives of today's Americans,” said Norman J. Ornstein, co-founder of Why Tuesday? and resident politics and public opinion scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
“Requiring people to vote on a Tuesday is in many respect the last vestige of the poll tax. The simple fact is that single working mom’s and people with two jobs simply can’t vote on Tuesday, a working day. So, ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to vote on a weekend day truly is the last mile in that long journey begun in Selma,” said Martin Luther King III, civil rights leader and president of Why Tuesday?.
“It is shameful that America ranks 138th out of 172 democracies around the world when it comes to voter turnout. And we are dead last amongst the G7. ‘Why’ one might ask. According to Census after Census, people say they aren’t voting because of the inconvenience of Tuesday. So if we can move Veteran’s Day, Columbus Day, and MLK’s birthday for the convenience of shoppers, shouldn’t we at least consider moving Election Day to include a weekend?,” said Bill Wachtel, co-founder Why Tuesday?.
The tradition of holding federal elections on the first Tuesday of November began with an act of Congress in 1845. Tuesday was selected for its comparative convenience because it was a designated “court day” and the day in which land-owning voters would typically be in town to conduct business. The tradition was based on the then-agrarian American society.
If enacted, the Weekend Voting Act would move Election Day to the first Saturday and Sunday after the first Friday in November in every even year for elections of Representatives and Delegates to Congress, and in every fourth year for the election of President and Vice President.
Currently, most polls are open only 12 hours - from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. - for one day during the work week. Instituting weekend voting would make it easier and more convenient for all Americans to exercise their right to vote, helping to reduce long lines at the polls and increasing voter turnout. Specifically, weekend voting would benefit working Americans, students and seniors who are disproportionally affected by the current system.
This is a concept that is currently working abroad. Elections in France are held on a Sunday, with voter turnout reaching 75 percent of eligible voters this year. In contrast, the 2016 election in the United States saw 58 percent of voters go to the polls. In 2012, France’s voter turnout was 80 percent while the United States was only 54 percent. A recent Pew Research released this year and ranked the United States 27th out of 35 of the most developed countries when it came to voter turnout.