WASHINGTON, DC – As President Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity holds meetings around the country and is asking states for data and information about voters, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and several of his colleagues are offering an initiative to strengthen the integrity of our elections and enhance participation in our democracy: weekend voting.
In an effort to boost voter participation by making voting in federal elections more accessible for all Americans, Reed is introducing the Weekend Voting Act. Reed’s bill (S. 1828) would move federal Election Day from the first Tuesday in November to the first full weekend.
The legislation, which is cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Angus King (I-ME), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), was discussed at a hearing this week that focused on combatting voter suppression and protecting Americans’ Constitutional right to vote.
Every two years, regardless of the date, Americans vote for their federal representatives on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The Tuesday designation goes back to the mid-19th century, when Congress decided to standardize federal Election Day throughout the country, and chose a day that was most convenient for farmers – then travelling by horse and buggy – to make it to the polls.
“Tuesday voting is an outdated, arcane practice that stands in the way of greater voter participation. Congress set Tuesday as Election Day in 1845 because it was the easiest day for farmers back then, but Tuesday voting has no such societal benefit today. America has evolved and our voting practices should evolve too to encourage citizens to participate in our democracy,” said Senator Reed. “Americans should not have to choose between their workday and family responsibilities and participation in our democratic process. It is time for Congress to update the law and make it more convenient for Americans to cast their ballots.”
According to the Pew Research Center, voter turnout in the United States routinely trails most developed countries, many of which hold elections on one or more days during the weekend. According to U.S. Census data, the most consistent reason Americans fail to vote is that they are too busy or could not get time off to vote.
“The Weekend Voting Act is a simple, commonsense proposal that gives Americans the freedom to vote during times that make sense for them,” stated Reed. “States would retain full autonomy to continue to offer alternatives to Election Day voting, such as early voting or voting by mail, and special consideration would be made to ensure elections respect weekend religious practices. We must not tolerate discrimination at the voting booth or efforts to suppress American’s right to vote.”
The Weekend Voting Act is endorsed by Common Cause, Communication Workers of America, Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, and the non-partisan Why Tuesday Coalition, led by its President, Martin Luther King III.
Companion legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY).