Elections

Proposals for increasing voter participation

Dec 19 '11

BIlly Freeland writes:

I recently came across a post you had in the NYT’s “Room for Debate” series, titled “Understanding Nonvoters.” I was wondering if you might be able to address a question I’ve had for a while. An organization called “Why Tuesday?” has proposed moving Election Day from Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday. This seems to be a good idea on the surface—Tuesday voting was right for agrarian times and a different economy, but modern society does not need it. However, I am wrestling with the question of whether weekend voting would increase turnout. After all, people already have access to absentee ballots and early voting. Have you seen any evidence to suggest that a move to Sat/Sunday would have much positive effect?

I guess one could say that it won’t hurt to change Election Day to a weekend, except that there will be some cost to having increased polling hours and potentially more equipment (I could see a case being made that extended times will require less equipment, though).

My reply:

1. Not everyone has the option for absentee ballots and early voting.

2. I think it’s generally believed that extending voting hours or allowing weekend voting would increase turnout, but I haven’t studied the literature on this.

3. The literature suggests that nonvoters are more likely to support Democrats, so it’s no surprise that many Republicans oppose any move that would make it easier to vote.