Why Tuesday?

by John Sides on February 21, 2012 · 8 comments

in Campaigns and elections

A reader points me to the group, Why Tuesday, that wants to move Election Day to a more convenient time.  They write:

Today, we are an urban society, and we all know how hard it is to commute to our jobs, take care of the children, and get our work done, let alone stand on lines to vote. Indeed, Census data over the last decade clearly indicates that the inconvenience of voting is the primary reason Americans are not participating in our elections.

If we can move Columbus Day, Presidents’ Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Holiday for the convenience of shoppers, why not make Election Day more convenient for the sake of voters? First and foremost, it is time to end the deafening silence of good people on this vitally important issue. So we ask: Why Tuesday?

Personally, I would have no problem with this.  But I’m not sure it’s going to increase turnout.  The political scientist André Blais reviewed a lot of evidence on turnout for a chapter in this book.  Here is what he wrote on Sunday voting and “rest day” voting (links added by me):

Unfortunately, we know relatively little about the actual impact of such measures on turnout.  Franklin (1996) initially reported that postal (absentee) voting and Sunday voting increase turnout but his subsequent analysis of turnout changes (Franklin 2004) indicate no independent impact.  Norris (2004) examines the effect of a variety of rules (number of polling days, polling on rest day, postal voting, proxy voting, special polling booths, transfer voting, and advance voting) and finds no effect….It makes sense to assume that people are more willing to vote when it is easy than when it is difficult.  But we still do not know which measures are the most efficient or how much difference they make.

Again, I’d certainly be amendable amenable to seeing if non-Tuesday voting made any difference.  I’m just cautious in believing it would.




Andreas Moser February 21, 2012 at 8:35 am

I grew up with Sunday voting in Germany and I like it. You have all day (0800 to 1800 usually). You can combine it with going for a walk, going to a restaurant, going to church if you are so inclined, visiting relatives, going to a football match.
Another advantage that I remember is that families often go voting together. My parents always took me when I was a kid. It may have helped to spark my interest in the democratic process.

Nick Carnes February 21, 2012 at 8:53 am

The GAO just released a 70-page report on weekend voting: http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/587621.pdf . They were skeptical that it would increase turnout, but, like Blais, they noted that it’s difficult to be certain.

RobC February 21, 2012 at 10:30 am

Amendable: either a typo or a very clever pun. I hypothesize the former but hope for the latter.

John Sides February 21, 2012 at 11:44 am

Alas, typo. Sorry to disappoint!

BG February 21, 2012 at 10:43 am

Mike Hanmer points out that the registration laws a state adopts are roughly endogenous to its political culture. Controlling for these factors, efforts to make voting more “convenient”–like registration reform–have little effect on increasing turnout. This, along with the work of Gerber, Green, et al. on the effectiveness of mobilization efforts, suggests to me that less focus should be put on make voting easier, and more on stimulating interest.

JG February 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Even if making voting more convenient won’t increase turnout, wouldn’t it be nice to make it more convenient for the people who already vote?

eric February 21, 2012 at 2:07 pm

I suppose I should follow the link, but I’m pretty sure Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are out because a sizable number of people observe a Sabbath on those days.

Scott Monje February 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm

You could just make Election Day a holiday.

Then keep it on Tuesday. If you make it a Monday holiday, everyone will leave town.

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