[EM] Making a Bad Thing Worse

Jonathan Lundell jlundell at pobox.com
Sat Oct 18 08:11:56 PDT 2008

On Oct 17, 2008, at 6:17 PM, Raph Frank wrote:

>> 9) Elections on Tuesday
>> why not make election day a holiday? or hold it on weekends?
> I thought they were held over multiple days with 'early voting', or
> was that changed?

There was a useful piece on this subject this morning on NPR <http://www.npr.org./templates/story/story.php?storyId=95862852 
 > (the audio isn't available as I write, but should be up shortly).  
Well over half the United States (31 or 34, ISTR) have early voting,  
leaving a significant minority that do not.

California, or at least some CA counties, push early voting fairly  
hard, and a growing percentage of voters in the state vote before  
election day--more than a third, recently, IIRC. You can vote by mail,  
or by stopping by the registrar's office, which is set up with several  
voting booths; that's what I did last week.

California goes a bit too far, in my view, in that voting starts about  
30 days before Election Day, which tends to draw out an already too- 
long campaign season. I ran for my local school board a few years  
back, and it's hard to run for local office knowing that more than a  
third of your voters will be voting before the height of the campaign  
(in this case a series of debates sponsored by various community  
groups during October). Why thirty days? I don't really know; I assume  
it was in the "more is better" category of decision making.

Oregon, which is 100% vote-by-mail, says 14-18 days, which seems like  
more than enough.

All that considered, I rather miss the sense of community of a local  
polling place. Mine have been in somebody's garage, or a local fire  
station, until my precinct became vote-by-mail, under a California  
election code provision that allows registrars to designate very small  
precincts as such.

Why Tuesday, by the way? The usual explanation sounds plausible enough:

> 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.

http://www.whytuesday.org/answer (yes, there's an organization and  
website dedicated to the issue; no doubt it's not the only one)

Tuesday voting obviously isn't universal; is it strictly a US  

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