“It turns out that the constitution has nothing to say about voting day, either: largely for reasons of nineteenth-century horse travel (which also lies at the origin of the senatorial “hold”), in 1845 Congress made Tuesday the day that Americans vote for the President; Tuesday was legislated for House elections in 1875; in 1914 it was extended to the Senate. Now we’re stuck with Tuesday voting as well, and in spite of the best efforts of [The New York Times’ Joe] Nocera, Chris Rock, and a group called Why Tuesday?, I will probably have to make time to vote on a work day (as I did yesterday) for the rest of my life. There’s always a constituency for democratic foolishness: for the filibuster, it’s senators in the minority party; for Tuesday voting, politicians who fear high voter turnout. Tuesday voting is a classic unnecessary stupidity, but sometimes, the more stupid a thing is, the harder it is to get rid of it.”—A nice shout out for us in The New Yorker, which calls voting on Tuesdays an “unnecessary stupidity” of American democracy. Amen!
“Move elections to the weekend. Do you know why elections fall on a Tuesday in early November? I didn’t either. According to a group called Why Tuesday?, it goes back to the 1840s, when “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.” Today, of course, casting your ballot on a Tuesday is an impediment: lines in urban areas are long, people have to get to work, etc. It is especially difficult for blue-collar workers — a k a Democratic voters — who don’t have the same wiggle room as white-collar employees.”—We couldn’t agree more with this great shout out to us in the New York Times today. What do YOU think?
Leave it up to young elected officials to come up with the best ideas!
With voter turnout in the United States worse than most other countries in the world, we’re stoked to hear about the effort led by Wisconsin’s Andrew Londre to get Election Day moved to the weekend so more people can vote.
A La Crosse county board member is leading the latest effort to change federal election law.
Andrew Londre, the county board supervisor for La Crosse County’s district nine, led the effort to submit a petition to the President and leaders of the House and Senate calling for presidential and congressional elections to take place on weekends.
Current election law, passed in 1845, mandates those elections take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
The law was passed at a time when the U.S. economy was heavily reliant on agriculture. New sessions of congress would begin in December, after the farming season had concluded, so elections needed to take place beforehand.
Sunday, seen by many as a day of worship, was not considered as an option. Lawmakers felt Monday would be a travel day, allowing voters to commute to their designated polling places, and it was decided the election would be held on Tuesday.
But Londre said Tuesday elections are inconvenient in today’s day and age.
"Tuesday’s a day most Americans go to work," Londre said. "If you’re a student, you’re in class from the morning until the evening."
"What that does is create rush hours," he added. "People create long lines in the morning and after work when they get to the polls and for students in between classes."
Londre and 44 other members of the Young Elected Officials Action Network believe a weekend election, allotting voters a Saturday, Sunday or both days to vote, would both help eliminate the aforementioned rush hours and boost voter turnout.
“As WhyTuesday.org has pointed out, the law mandating federal elections on Tuesdays was crafted in 1845 to accommodate Market Day. “Election Day” should suit contemporary American life: a 24-hour period from noon Saturday to noon Sunday, with early voting the week before. This would eliminate “rush-hour” backlogs early in the morning and at the end of the day, as well as Sabbath problems. If Wal-Mart can stay open 24/7, our democracy can stay open 24 hours once every two years.”—Congressional scholar Norm Ornstein in The Washington Post.
Q: Good morning, Mr. President. Good morning, President Sall. Thank you for your hospitality. It’s a pleasure to be in your country. President Obama, two subjects. First of all, picking up on your comments about equal rights under the law, could you give us your gut, your visceral reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in the voting rights case? Explain legislative remedy you will pursue and the pace of that?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me take the issue of voting rights first. The Voting Rights Act, Sections 2, 4, 5 were the cornerstones of providing political power to African Americans that then led to a whole range of other steps to make America more just and more equal. It was the cornerstone and the culmination of years of struggle — blood, sweat, tears — in some cases, deaths.
I might not be here as President had it not been for those who courageously helped to pass the Voting Rights Act. I think that the Supreme Court made a mistake in its ruling, but that decision is now here. I think the Supreme Court didn’t recognize the degree to which voter suppression is still a problem around the country, and that it makes sense for us to put in place mechanisms to check practices and procedures that may make it harder for people to vote in those areas where there’s been a history in the past of discrimination.
And part of the reason, Major, is because even though law suits can still be filed now if there’s discrimination, if you don’t have the structure of Section 4 and Section 5 in place ahead of time, the election may be over by the time law suits are filed or a court rules. And oftentimes, it may be too late.
Having said that, the Supreme Court has ruled and Congress can’t overturn this particular aspect of their ruling. The good news is that there are other potential remedies, and the most important one is to simply make sure that everybody around the country can vote and that everywhere around the country we’re not seeing seven-hour lines — we’re not seeing mechanisms put in place to make it harder for people to vote, but rather we should have mechanisms that make it easier to vote. And that is within Congress’s power. Congress doesn’t have to target or identify a particular jurisdiction. What it can do now is to say, regardless of where you are — regardless of where you live — there are going to be certain rules that apply to elections.
And as you know, right after the election when we had already seen some of these problems, I assigned a close advisor of mine, Bob Bauer, to work with a close advisor of Mitt Romney’s. They’re going to be issuing a report in terms of how we can start making it easier for folks to vote. I recognize that whenever you get into voting rights issues, inevitably some partisan thoughts cross people’s minds about who is it going to advantage or disadvantage.
But in the wake of this Supreme Court ruling, surely we can all agree that people should be able to vote. They shouldn’t be restricted from voting or have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to vote, and that there should be some uniformity in terms of how that right is upheld. It’s the cornerstone of our democracy. It’s what makes our democracy work. And I’m looking forward to working with both Democrats and Republicans in a non-partisan basis to make sure that if you’re a citizen of the United States of America, you can vote without a whole bunch of barriers, regardless of your race or your political leaning. So that’s on the voting rights issue.
Why Tuesday? Statement by Ambassador Young, Norm Ornstein on Shelby County v. Holder
Today, the Supreme Court made headlines with its decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the Court’s majority, recognized that “voting discrimination still exists” and upheld the vast majority of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. But the Court struck down the decades-old coverage formula that determined which states must seek approval from the federal government before changing their voting laws. In doing so, the Court called upon Congress to modernize voting laws for the 21st century.
As President Barack Obama recognized earlier today, this decision mandates immediate action. Norman Ornstein, renowned political scientist and Why Tuesday? board member, explained, “This decision creates a major challenge. Congress has the tools not just to fix the Voting Rights Act, but to reform our voting systems more broadly. In both 2002, with the Help America Vote Act, and in 2006, with the most recent reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, broad bipartisan majorities joined to create a better and fairer voting system. The only question is whether our political leaders are ready to maintain the great American tradition to do it again.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson and the 89th Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in a matter of weeks. We are currently just weeks away from the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for civil rights. When will there be a better time for our elected officials to once again put democratic values above party politics? In the tradition of those heroes of the civil rights era, today’s political leaders must stop seeing red or blue and focus on the red, white and blue that has made America the beacon of democracy.
Ambassador Young, the Chairman of Why Tuesday?, heralded today’s decision as a clarion call to Congress to fix our antiquated voting system. “When other things are broken or obsolete in our society, we find solutions. No one can tell me that, in a nation built on innovation, we can’t once and for all upgrade our voting system. We should be marching on Washington on August 28, 2013, right after President Obama has signed the VRA 2.0 into law.”
Statement by the President on the Supreme Court Ruling on Shelby County v. Holder
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 25, 2013
I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today. For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.
As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.
Washington, D.C.— Today, Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY) and Louise Slaughter (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.
Rep. Israel said, “Voting should be easy and accessible. This is why, in 1845, Congress decided that voting on a Tuesday made sense. It was the easiest day for farmers in our agrarian society to get to the polls. But times have changed, and Tuesday voting just doesn’t make sense anymore. By moving Election Day from a single day in the middle of the work week to a full weekend, we are encouraging more working Americans to participate. Our democracy will be best served when our leaders are elected by as many Americans as possible.”
Rep. Slaughter said, “Having Election Day on a Tuesday is an outdated requirement that simply does not comport with the schedules of modern Americans. 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.”
The Weekend Voting Act would allow for national polls to be open from 10 a.m. (Eastern Time) Saturday to 6 p.m. (ET) 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. Reps. Israel, Slaughter, Larson, Clyburn and Dingell are the original cosponsors of the legislation.
“At one level, as a longtime and strong proponent of making voting easier for all Americans who are eligible, I would love to make Election Day a holiday. Far too many working people are hamstrung on Tuesday; they can vote only before or after work, when the lines are especially long and when people whose livelihoods depend on getting to work on time and getting the hourly pay cannot afford to wait for an hour or more. But adding an Election Day holiday is simply too costly… That is why I helped to found Why Tuesday, an organization focused on informing Americans that the tradition of Tuesday Election Days is not writ in stone or in the Constitution, but was chosen to suit a 19th-century agrarian economy. We believe it makes far more sense to move elections to the weekend.”—
“We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.”—President Obama announcing an election reform commission during the State of the Union. Some, including the League of Women Voters, think this is just kicking the can down the road. What do you think?
“Evidence shows that early voting increases as Election Day nears — the weekend before Election Day has particularly high turnout. Mandating the availability of weekend voting, as well as both standard business and non-business hours during the week, frees citizens from making a choice between work and voting.”—
The Brennan Center’s new report, How To Fix Long Lines, on how important weekend voting is to increasing American voter turnout and making sure all Americans have a chance to vote.
“Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”—President Obama, calling for fixing America’s terribly broken voting system, during his inaugural address. Music to my ears. (via jacobsoboroff)
“So, President Obama, as you place your hand upon the bibles of both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., I pray that you will be inspired by the courage and conviction of these two great men who paid the ultimate price for the right to vote. I pray that you will listen carefully to the words of Lyndon B. Johnson which still echo throughout the Capitol, and be inspired by that courageous Southerner who sacrificed his political life for the sake of a greater good. I pray that you will feel the strength of Martin’s voice as he stood at the Lincoln Memorial urging our nation to make good on a 100 year old “unfulfilled promise.”—
Our co-founder, Ambassador Andrew Young, on the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the second inauguration of Barack Obama.
“To reduce long lines, Holder said polling places should have an adequate number of voting machines and be open for additional days - another difficult challenge because thousands of local officials make those decisions independently.”—
Reuters, reporting on Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks about election reform.
“Whether you voted for the first time, or waited in line for a very long time… by the way we have to fix that.”—President Obama calling for election reform, in an ad lib, during his victory speech last night.