Larson presses for Election Weekend

Rep. John Larson wants Election Day to go European.

He, and another member of the Democratic House leadership, Rep. Steve Israel of New York, have introduced a bill that would move Election Day from its traditional spot of the first Tuesday in November to the first full weekend of that month.

They argue that would allow more time for voting and make it easier for people to go to the polls.

They say Tuesday was selected as Election Day in 1845, when the United States was an agrarian society. Tuesday’s were always “court day” back then, and it was the day landowners would typically be in town to conduct business.

But Larson, D-1st District, and Israel say things have changed.

“As a representative democracy, voting is a fundamental responsibility for all Americans and the system should be as accessible as possible for as many as possible,” Larson said. “Unfortunately, the system we have now was designed to meet our country’s needs over 160 years ago and it no longer makes any sense.”

The Democratic lawmakers say the United States should follow the example of countries in Europe and around the world that open polls on the weekends.

They say that in 2004 and 2008, only 47 percent of eligible voters actually voted in the United States. But in Italy, where voting takes place on the weekends, 92 percent of eligible voters voted.

The Weekend Voting Act would allow national polls to be open from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday. Election officials would be permitted to close polls overnight if they determine it would be inefficient to keep them open.

But the bill isn’t expected to get much traction in a House that’s controlled by Republicans.

Election experts say weekend voting would favor Democrats. Democratic voters are more likely than Republicans be low- and medium-wage workers who find it difficult to take time off on a workday.

Students, who would be more likely to vote on a weekend, are also more likely to vote for Democratic candidates.