And why Tuesday? The debates from the time tell us that Tuesday was deemed the most convenient day for what was then a largely rural society. Saturday was a workday on the farm. Sunday was the Lord's day, not to be profaned with partisanship. But it took a day for many farmers to reach the county seat in those horse-and-buggy times, so Monday was out as well. Tuesday or Wednesday would let them vote and return home in time for the weekend. But Wednesday was market day for many communities, so Tuesday it became by process of elimination.I think the historic reasons for voting on Tuesday are too easily dismissed as inapplicable today. Here's how I see the other available days of the week - with special consideration given to the young folks out there and how they apportion their week (being that I'm on the CYD Board and all):
What was a matter of convenience in 1845 is hardly the same today in our urban society. It is a working day for most Americans, which means that they have to leave early for work (as I did Tuesday to vote in Virginia) or stop by the polling place at the end of their day.
That means, among other things, that polls tend to be crowded in the early morning and the late afternoon and early evening, delaying or frustrating many would-be voters.
Tuesday is also a school day, and since many communities (including mine) use schools as polling places, they either have to cancel classes or arrange for the buses to discharge and pick up students from parking lots crowded with the cars of voters.
Monday: Sucks. Why damn any candidate or issue with an pissy electorate with a case of the Mondays?
Wednesday: Hump Day! It's just so middle-of-the-road, no? Meetings scheduled, tedium of the work week, too marginal a day for an increasingly marginalized electorate.
Thursday: Thirsty. For college kids, 'nuff said. Thursday, by the way, is my personal favorite day of the week because none of the weekend's mystery has evaporated and there's so much Friday-promise in the air. With all that personal life distraction and end of the week rushing, is adding a vote going to help? What if NBC ever makes Thursday Must-See TV again?
Friday: No, no, no, Friday is every bit as much for drinking as Thursday and in fact is a Thursday recovery day and Saturday prep day. Friday is for happy hour.
Saturday and Sunday: Those days are for football, which leads me to chant in response to those who say/believe turnout would be higher on a weekend - a time specifically reserved for doing non-work, no-responsibility things - "bulllllsh***tttt, bulllllsh***tttt!" C'mon. That's like that national holiday idea - I just refuse to believe a vast majority of people wouldn't take that as a cue to get out of town, and no, they wouldn't sign up to vote absentee first. This country has an awfully backwards view of vacation time anyway (i.e.: we don't get any compared to the rest of our well-rested, well-traveled, broadened-horizoned, Euro friends).
So we've got poor little Tuesday left - a day with no point and nothing to look forward to save its Election Day honors.
Before testing a hypothesis with too many variables - like swapping the election day (weekends? what about Seventh Day Adventists, Orthodox Jewish, strict Christian sects, for whom one of the two days could not be used for voting?), why not add in some of the factors mentioned in the article such as increased vote-by-mail awareness and availability or early voting days or weeks?
Of course, anytime you allow people to vote early, you'll still get a bunch who want to wait because the story isn't finished yet. Campaigns design, and people expect, a narrative arc that - in a perfect world - hits the climax on Election Day or the day or two before. West Virginia implemented early voting - available at all (most?) county courthouses. For the two weekends prior to E-Day, voters could run on down and vote. How simple! It sort of attracted a bunch, and sort of didn't. It was new, so perhaps its popularity will grow.
California has some particular early vote stumbling blocks - for one thing, we're a HUGE state. A huge sprawling state. We don't have 58 centralized county courthouses. In San Francisco, a 7mi by 7mi city, having early vote available at City Hall makes it relatively accessible to anyone with a Muni pass or two legs. In Los Angeles, very few people would be close enough to, say, city hall, or the Norwalk-based registrar/recorder's office to make the effort.
And as we've established in earlier posts, apparently no Californian wants to get close to a courthouse - lest they be tapped for jury duty (dear god, no! give me my duty-free right to vote, please!).
I'm highly, highly skeptical about moving Election Day to a weekend or any other day of the week. Streamline polling places, encourage absentee voting (which is SO simple and has SUCH an efficient turnaround time - and I'm an LA County voter, so if they can be efficient . . .), or implement early vote.
After all the horses have been led to such easily flowing water, they're going to have to dip their heads and drink on their own. How much more must we do?