Today, Iowans will kick off the Republican nominating process for president of the United States with the first-in-the-nation caucuses. But why a Tuesday?
The short answer: We vote on Tuesday for absolutely no good reason. This is true especially when you consider the United States, arguably the world’s most famous democracy, has ranked near the bottom of all nations in voter participation for more than half a century. And that’s not because, as Mitt Romney suggested to me last month, we need great candidates to increase voter turnout. Heard of JFK? Reagan?
The little-bit-longer answer: We vote on Tuesday because of a law passed in 1845 meant to make voting convenient for Americans traveling by horse and buggy. Seriously. When Congress set out to pick a day for Americans to vote, ultimately settling on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, voting could take two days: a day to get to the county seat to vote and a day to get back for market day on Wednesday. They couldn’t travel on the Christian sabbath, so by process of elimination, Tuesday, the first convenient day of the week, was chosen. It was as simple as that.
In 2012, it’s as dumb as that. Just a few weeks ago I sat in Tom Thumb diner in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and as I looked out the window in one of the most fertile farming states in our country, I didn’t notice a single Iowan hitting the highway in a horse-drawn carriage. So why are we still voting on a day set for a time when slavery was legal, only white males voted, less than half of our 50 states had been established and “automobile” was a made-up word?
Since World War II, American voter turnout has averaged under 50% in federal elections. In 2008, with unprecedented excitement about the presidential campaign and record money spent by the candidates, voter turnout was about 64%, not a record, and a third of all eligible voters didn’t make it to the polls. To understand the benefits to democracy of weekend voting, all you need to do is look at the nations with the highest voter turnout and realize they vote on weekends or national holidays.
In an America where 45 million 18- to 29-year-olds, the largest potential voting bloc in the country, are in school or at work all day, where single parents have to take care of their kids, and many of us, as much as we want to, are prevented by other obligations from making it to the polls in the middle of the week, it’s clear it’s time to move Election Day to the weekend.
Full Article: Why vote on Tuesdays? No good reason – CNN.com.