Two Congressmen have introduced legislation that would move election day from the first Tuesday in November to the first full weekend.
The bill was introduced by Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY) and John Larson (D-CT) and would allow for national polls to be open from 10 AM EST Saturday to 6 PM EST Sunday. Election officials would be permitted to close polls during the overnight hours if they determine it would be inefficient to keep them open.
Why the weekend? The Congressmen say it will be a more convenient time for voters, thus increasing voter turnout. Currently, most polls are open 12 hours on one day from 7 AM to 7 PM.
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.”
The Weekend Voting Act has been introduced in past Congresses but has never made headway, partly because lawmakers have little incentive to change the system.
Critics of a weekend election point to the fact that many states have early voting options which gives voters a more flexible schedule. Currently, there are only 15 states which do not offer an early voting option.