Monday, November 3, 2008

Straightening Out Our Screwed-Up Elections

Isn't it great to live in a state that has vote-by-mail? You have time to read up on the issues and the candidates and give

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2008 at 7:20 AM

Isn't it great to live in a state that has vote-by-mail? You have time to read up on the issues and the candidates and give them some careful thought. You can vote from the comfort of your own home, as the cliché goes - a real godsend for elderly folks and the disabled.

Best of all, you don't have to stand in line for hours to cast a ballot the way people are doing in many other states this year. And there's no worry about touch-screen voting machines failing to count your ballot - accidentally or otherwise.

Every state should follow Oregon's pioneering example and adopt vote-by-mail. Failing that, Election Day should be a national holiday.

The idea of either making the day a holiday or moving Election Day to Saturday has been debated for years; there's even a non-profit group called Why Tuesday? dedicated to advancing the idea. Nine states already make Election Day a state holiday. It would take only a simple act of Congress to make it a national holiday or move it to Saturday.

Why DO we vote on Tuesday? According to Why Tuesday? the policy dates back to the mid-19th century:

"In 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for Americans to vote. We were an agrarian society. We traveled by horse and buggy. 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. So that left Tuesday and Wednesday, but Wednesday was market day. So, Tuesday it was. In 1875 Congress extended the Tuesday date for national House elections and in 1914 for federal Senate elections."

Holding elections on Saturday or making Election Day a national holiday is such an obviously good idea that The Eye has long wondered why the hell it hasn't happened. Under the present setup, people who don't have jobs or school to go to - i.e., the rich and the retired - have a huge advantage over ordinary working stiffs, who have to stand in line for hours after their workday is finished to cast a ballot. Many of them just don't bother.

Naturally this works to the advantage of Republicans, which may explain why there was resistance to vote-by-mail in Oregon and why we can expect resistance on the national level to changing Election Day.

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