A Long Island congressman wants to move Election Day to the first weekend in November to increase voter turnout, arguing Tuesday was chosen for its convenience to farmers nearly two centuries ago.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) has reintroduced his proposed Weekend Voting Act in each congressional session since 2008, but the bill has repeatedly died in committee. He revived his push ahead of an election in which voter turnout is expected to be especially low since no presidential or congressional contests are on the ballot.
“Many eligible voters won’t exercise their right to vote due to the inconvenience of Election Day falling on a Tuesday,” Israel said. “By moving Election Day from a single day in the middle of the work week to a full weekend, we are encouraging more working Americans to participate.”
Congress made Election Day the first Tuesday in November in 1845 because it was a designated “court day” in which land owners were conveniently in town conducting business, he noted.
Joining the congressman in supporting the proposal were several New York State lawmakers and leaders of a nonprofit group dedicated to the cause called Why Tuesday?
“It is disgraceful that the greatest democracy in the world ranks 138th out of 172 democracies in voter turnout,” said Ambassador Andrew Young, chairman of the board of Why Tuesday?
Only 57.5 percent of eligible American voters cast their ballots last year and in New York, where there is no early voting, voter participation ranks 44th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for voter participation, Israel said.
The Weekend Voting Act would allow for national polls to be open from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday in the 48 contiguous states, with elections officials deciding whether to keep polls open overnight. In New Zealand, where elections are held on Saturday, 86 percent of eligible voters turned out.
“Our democracy will be best served when our leaders are elected by as many Americans as possible,” Israel said.