The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released the first major U.S. report on the costs and benefits associated with holding elections on weekends – though it said it could not “draw valid conclusions” about what impact moving elections to weekends would have on voter turnout. Under federal law passed in 1845, elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Lawmakers chose Tuesday in order to give voters one travel day after the Sunday day of rest to get from their farms into town to vote. Critics say the practice of voting on Tuesdays is outdated and depresses turnout.
“Since nationwide federal elections have never been held on a weekend, it is difficult to draw valid conclusions about how moving federal elections to a weekend would affect voter turnout,” the GAO report said.
The GAO report focused in large part on the logistical challenges of holding elections on weekends, identifying challenges in doing so including “finding poll workers and polling places, and securing ballots and voting equipment-and expected cost increases.” It noted that 35 states and the District of Columbia offered voters an alternative to Election Day voting in the 2010 federal election.