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Making Election Day a California Holiday

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Photo by joebeone via Flickr

For over a year now, Los Angeles resident Jacob Soboroff of Why Tuesday? has been traveling the country asking one eponymous question: Why Tuesday? It's to prove that the reason we vote on Tuesdays is outdated and may not be the strongest day for voter participation (the long answer is below). Currently, the Weekend Voting Act is in both the House and the Senate, introduced by Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), respectively.

More locally, a proposed state initiative went into circulation last week in order to collect petition signatures from the public. It reads (.pdf):

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Election day is a public holiday, on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of even-numbered years, to vote in elections for for the United States President and Vice-President and California Members of the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate.

The website supporting this proposal says this is needed "to uphold the fundamental belief in 'We, the people' democracy, by making it easier for all citizens to have the time and opportunity to exercise their right guaranteed by the United States Constitution ­the right to vote."

If enough signatures are gathered by January 2 (a total of 433,971), then Californians could be voting on this new holiday in the winter election.

Why Do We Vote on Tuesdays?
From Why Tuesday?

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. Today, we are an urban society, and we all know how hard it is to commute to our jobs, take care of the children, and get our work done, let alone stand on lines to vote. Indeed, Census data over the last decade clearly indicates that the inconvenience of voting is the primary reason Americans are not participating in our elections.

If we can move Columbus Day, Presidents' Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Holiday for the convenience of shoppers, why not make Election Day more convenient for the sake of voters? First and foremost, it is time to end the deafening silence of good people on this vitally important issue. So we ask: Why Tuesday?

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Jacob Soboroff talks to Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY) about the Weekend Voting Act