THE CASE FOR WEEKEND VOTING
TURNOUT GOES UP
It’s no secret America’s voter turnout is horrible — we often cite the statistic 138th of 172 nations. That figure, and a very compelling case for weekend voting, comes from the study Voter Turnout Rates from a Comparative Perspective by Rafael López Pintor, Maria Gratschew and Kate Sullivan for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance:
DAY OF ELECTION
There is an active debate, especially in older democracies on how to increase voter turnout. Some of the factors that may increase turnout would require complicated changes in electoral laws and even in constitutions, while others, like changing the day of election, would require little effort but could have a significant impact.
Of the 86 countries that Freedom House labelled as democratic in 1996, and that held election in one single day almost half of them had their latest election on Sunday. Saturday and Monday were the second most frequent election days. More recent figures also suggest that about half of the countries hold their elections on a non-business day.
A study in 2000 suggested that weekend voting increases turnout rates far above statistical relevance. One analysis found that turnout figures would on average increase between five and six percentage points if Election Day for national elections changed from a weekday to a rest day. When it comes to elections for the European Parliament (which feature extremely low turnout in most EU countries), the same change could account for a nine percentage point increase.
If election day were moved from a weekday to a Saturday or a Sunday, religious groups that worship on these days might be offended, but there is another possible solution to follow the example of a vast number of countries, including South Africa, Germany, India, Chile, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Philippines, where the election day automatically becomes a holiday.
This study was from a larger International IDEA report, published in 2002, Voter Turnout Since 1945: A Global Report.
11 STATES ARE TUESDAY-ONLY
If you’re a single mother or father, student with long hours or someone — like so many Americans — with two or more jobs, you’re going to have a hard time voting in the 11 states which have in-person Tuesday voting as the only option, as the National Conference of State Legislatures points out:
Most states have a method for any eligible voter to cast a ballot before Election Day, either during the early voting period or by requesting an absentee ballot. In 11 states, early voting is not available and an excuse is required to request an absentee ballot. 39 states offer pre-election day options, such as early voting, absentee voting and mail voting.
“TOO BUSY” TO VOTE
U.S. Census data has long indicated the #1 reason voters gave for not making it out to the polls was “too busy/couldn’t get time off to vote.” In 2010, 27% of nonvoters gave this answer.
The 2014 midterm elections were no exception. A staggering 69% of nonvoters fell into this category. From a Pew Research Center survey, as reported by The Washington Post:
A full two-thirds said they simply didn’t have enough time to vote. More than half of this group – 35% of the total – said that scheduling conflicts with work or school kept them from getting to the polls last Tuesday. Another 34% of the total said they were simply too busy, or that they were sick, out of town, or forgot about Election Day.