Consider just a few of the major events that have happened since 1845: the fruition of the Industrial Revolution (arguably the biggest event in human history), women gaining the right to vote, the end of slavery, black people obtaining the right to vote, and, most recently, the invention of the internet. In that time, the labor force went from around 60 percent farmersto below 2 percent.
These events have, obviously, impacted how people vote and, critically, when they can vote. In general, people no longer find a Tuesday in early November a convenient time to vote thanks to a lull in their farming schedules. Instead, voting on this day forces people to navigate around the standard Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm schedule that dictates not just when many people work but also when many people go to school or take their kids to school. Election Day has gone from convenient to very inconvenient.
But state and federal governments have been slow to catch up with the times. Yes, 34 states now allow no-excuse early voting, but six still require an excuse (such as a work trip), and seven don’t allow it at all. (The remaining three — Washington, Oregon, and Colorado — only have mail-in voting.) And early voting days can be cumbersome — some places don’t allow early voting on many or any weekends, when it would be most convenient for many people with kids and busy work schedules to vote. And states may also limit early voting to weekdays during 9-to-5 office hours when people are working.
On some level, the whole setup seems ridiculous: In the 171 years since Congress set the standardized Election Day, has really nothing changed that would necessitate a new official day for voting? Why should a bunch of dead farmers who lived in a country that still allowed slavery and banned women from voting continue to guide the day that most US votersexercise their most basic right?
It’s just one of the many ways America’s voting system is outdated. Surely there has to be a better day for voting — particularly a day that’s on the weekend, when people are much more likely to have free time.