Editorial: Keep Election Day where it already is

Published 10:24 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There are all kinds of political pundits who feel America ought to change its single-day election jubilee. We argue it should remain on the first Tuesday of November after the first Monday, like it is now.

Congress in 1845 instituted a uniform, nationwide day for voting. Before then, states held election days on various days as long as they were within a 34-day window before the Electoral College meets on the first Wednesday in December.

Tuesday was selected because travel by horse and buggy sometimes required two days. Holding an election on Monday would interfere with the Sabbath. Wednesday often was market day.

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People arguing for moving Election Day nowadays say the biggest barrier is getting time off from work. Some point to high turnouts at primary elections that experimented with Saturdays.

However, we agree with the other side of the debate, which argues that Americans prefer their traditions. Thanksgiving is often stated to be an inconvenient day for travel, for weather, for being too long after the harvest it celebrates and for being close to Christmas, yet we aren’t about to change it. The date for Election Day is easily expected without looking it up, and turnout for general elections clearly outperforms primaries, partially because primaries are all over the calendar and the general election date is uniform.

Moreover, it already is difficult enough for state and local officials across the country to get the necessary number of volunteers to work at the many, many polling places. Making them work a Saturday, away from their families, would only make it more difficult. Also, consider the extra hours to work on the weekend that would need to be paid to the city, county and state election workers who receive, tally, safeguard and give results of the election.

There is a simpler, more feasible solution. Just make Election Day a national holiday. In fact, dropping Columbus Day to offset the argument that there are too many federal holidays might be a smart way to find compromise.

We are all in favor of steps like main-in balloting that result in greater turnout, but don’t create a new batch of problems. The first Tuesday of November after the first Monday is Election Day in America and should remain Election Day in America.