[EM] Making a Bad Thing Worse
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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