Joe Nocera for The New York Times: Fixing the System

November 4th, 2013

The New York Times
by Joe Nocera
November 4, 2013

It’s Election Day. Virginians are electing a new governor, New Yorkers are choosing a new mayor, and all over the country, dozens of local races are being decided. Because this is an off-year election, in which there are no federal races, voter turnout is going to be abysmal. We all know that.

In Australia, people who don’t vote are fined. In America, people can go to jail for skipping jury duty, but there’s no penalty for not voting. I’m not advocating either fines or jail — not today, anyway — but I’ve got five reforms in mind that could both invigorate the electorate and encourage more responsive, and less extreme, political candidates. Here they are, in no particular order:

Move elections to the weekend. Do you know why elections fall on a Tuesday in early November? I didn’t either. According to a group called Why Tuesday?, it goes back to the 1840s, when “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.” Today, of course, casting your ballot on a Tuesday is an impediment: lines in urban areas are long, people have to get to work, etc. It is especially difficult for blue-collar workers — a k a Democratic voters — who don’t have the same wiggle room as white-collar employees.

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