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Reps. Larson, Israel Announce Legislation to Move Election Day to Weekend

November 3, 2015
Press Release
Voter turnout in 2014 midterm lowest since 1942. Weekend voting is more convenient and would increase voter turnout

Washington — Reps. John B. Larson (CT-01) and Steve Israel (D-NY)  announced legislation to move Election Day from the first Tuesday in November to the first full weekend, thereby making it more convenient for voters and increasing voter turnout. In 2014, two-thirds of non-voters didn’t vote because it was inconvenient, didn’t have enough time, or conflicted with their work or school schedule.

Rep. Israel said, “Voting should be easy and accessible. This is why, in 1845, Congress decided that voting on a Tuesday made sense because it was the easiest day for farmers in our agrarian society to get to the polls. But times have changed – last year a majority of non-voters said that work, school or their busy schedules prevented them from voting. It’s clear that voting on Tuesday doesn’t make sense anymore. By moving Election Day to the weekend we are encouraging, and giving more working Americans the opportunity to participate. Our democracy is best served when everyone has a voice and when our leaders are elected by as many Americans as possible.”

Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn said, “Weekend voting would empower working people, students and seniors‎ and add value to the major cornerstone of our democracy.”

“Our nation is stronger when more Americans have the opportunity to vote," said Rep. Larson. "Unfortunately, many aspects of our electoral system have been handed down from previous generations and no longer make sense for our modern society. One simple change that would make a big difference for Americans from all walks of life would be to move away from scheduling elections on a Tuesday, or any day during the work week. Enabling voters to cast their ballots on weekends would make it far easier for our students and workforce to cast a ballot and make their voices heard. I commend Rep. Steve Israel for his dedication to a fair election process.”

“Having Election Day on a Tuesday is an outdated requirement that simply does not comport with the schedules of modern Americans,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). “Instituting weekend voting would make it easier and more convenient for Americans to exercise their right to vote, and would help reduce lines at the polls and increase voter turnout.”

“Democracy works best when we make it easier for eligible voters to participate,” said Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA). “Moving elections from one Tuesday to a full weekend will improve the voter turnout that a healthy democracy depends on.”

“Equal access to the polls is a fundamental American value. We need to make it easier for men and women in this country to vote, and establishing weekend voting would enfranchise millions of Americans. I am pleased to co-sponsor this legislation, which will allow people across this country to be heard,” said Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL).

The Weekend Voting Act would allow for national polls to be open from 10 a.m. (Eastern Time) on Saturday to 6 p.m. (ET) on Sunday in the 48 contiguous states. Election officials would be permitted to close polls during the overnight hours if they determine it would be inefficient to keep them open. Co-sponsors include Representatives James Clyburn (SC-06), John Larson (CT-01), John Garamendi (CA-03), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), and Louise Slaughter (NY-25).

The long-standing tradition of holding federal elections on the first Tuesday of November began with an act of Congress in 1845.  Tuesday was selected for its comparative convenience because it was a designated “court day” and the day in which land-owners would typically be in town to conduct business. The tradition was based on the then-agrarian American society.

Currently, most polls are open only 12 hours (from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) for one day. According to polling conducted after the 2014 midterm elections, only 36 percent of the voting population cast a ballot in 2014, and 69 percent of the voting population that did not vote cited scheduling conflicts or busy schedules as the reason preventing them from getting to the polls. Voter turnout in the United States has long lagged behind similar democracies around the world.