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LAist Interview: Jacob Soboroff of Why Tuesday

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LAist had the opportunity to catch up with Jacob Soboroff, Executive Director of Why Tuesday to talk about WT, their upcoming projects and politics. Jacob has worked as a part time advance man for NYC Michael Bloomberg and briefly played the same role for presidential candidate Howard Dean. He moved back from NYC to his hometown of Los Angeles last year, when I first met him, and since returning has video blogged for LA Observed and also just recently became a contributor to the new PBS series WIRED SCIENCE through KCET Los Angeles. Here's what Jacob had to say on all of the topics above and few others.

Why Tuesday is about why we vote on Tuesdays, so let's start at the beginning. Why do we vote on Tuesdays? Since when?

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Well, hang on. Our group isn't just about voting on Tuesday. It's about making America's democracy stronger through increased voter participation. The USA actually ranks behind most countries in the world in voter turnout. We want to make election reform an issue our politicians can't avoid, and we start by asking "why do we vote on Tuesday?" because not many politicians know the answer... and these are folks that live and die for election day.

So why do we vote on Tuesday? Because of a law passed by congress in 1845 to make it convenient to vote in a largely agrarian society. Congress came to Tuesday by a process of elimination that makes absolutely no sense today. Literally, it has something to do with people traveling by horse and buggy and having to be back in time for market day on Wednesday. We have the full reason on our website. So we're saying: if your OS is out of date and your computer starts to malfunction, you get an upgrade. Why don't we upgrade our voting system?

What is the main goal of Why Tuesday?

Our founder Bill Wachtel likes to say that our goal is to be a woodpecker on the conscience of America. This is a project that was born out of the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act in 2005. Instead of celebrating, we thought about what we could to to advance the cause of voting rights in America. How do you make voting more secure, accessible and reliable? We don't have the answers, but we want to increase the volume of the discussion about election reform.

You have met and interviewed many politicians - do most of them know why we vote on Tuesday? Did anyone really surprise you with their knowledge (or lack thereof) of American politics?

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Most don't know. We've interviewed everyone from Hillary Clinton to Duncan Hunter. I interviewed Republican Senator Dick Lugar at a biodiesel gas station in Noblesvilla, Indidana. He was interesting. I also really liked talking to the both senators from Wisconsin, Democratis Russ Finegold and Herb Kohl.

We have something like 33 videos on YouTube and we put out a new episode of our documentary video blog every Tuesday. We're not just asking "why Tuesday? - we're taking a look at the best and worst practices in America and putting them out there for everyone to see. I'm trying to get a trip together to go to Larimer Country, Colorado this week. In 2004 147,112 out of 157,903 people voted. They have this cool thing called vote centers where you can show up to this central location on Election Day to cast a ballot for your local area. This is really helpful for people who don't live near their job because the polling place might not be open when they leave for work in the morning. In 15 of our 50 states there's no early or no-excuse absentee voting so it's Tuesday or bust.

Pictures courtesy of Why Tuesday on flickr.