There have been any number of efforts to get people to the
polls – some a lot more successful than others.
has made it far easier to vote by mail. Oregon
requires it. California and Texas have opened precincts early.
County didn’t too badly
by putting a pot measure on the June ballot. In an election with a statewide
turnout of less than 30 percent, nearly 60 percent of Mendocino County
voters cast ballots. Only tiny Sierra and Alpine counties had bigger turnouts, and they’re almost always near the top.
Of course, we probably can’t count on a pot measure every
Another approach may be to change election day altogether.
Many countries vote on weekends, and there are people
advocating that here too.
There is no constitutional requirement for Tuesday
elections. And apparently most people don’t know how we came to vote on
Tuesdays. I know I didn’t. A group called Why Tuesday dug into it and posted this
history on its Web site (www.whytuesday.org):
“In 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas
were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for
Americans to vote. We were an agrarian society. We traveled by horse and buggy.
Farmers needed a day to get to the county seat, a day to vote, and a day to get
back, without interfering with the three days of worship. So that left Tuesday
and Wednesday, but Wednesday was market day. So, Tuesday it was. In 1875
Congress extended the Tuesday date for national House elections and in 1914 for
federal Senate elections.”
According to the Long Island
newspaper Newsday, Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., an advocate of weekend voting,
took his video camera into the halls of the Capitol last week to ask why
Tuesday is election day. Only two out of 40 people knew, the paper said.
The Why Tuesday group is popular among the netroots set but
its organizers come from both sides of the aisle in mainstream politics. Directors
include former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, congressional scholar Norman
Ornstein and attorney William Wachtel. Advisory board members include former
Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., former Rep. Jack Kemp, R-N.Y., Democratic political
consultant Joe Trippi and former Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman.
What do you think about weekend voting?
— Jim Sweeney