Better Luck Next Time, Roy
California’s Capitol extends condolences to the Bay Area’s Roy Benson.
Benson’s initiative to declare the Tuesday after the first Monday in November a statewide holiday failed to garner the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot, the Secretary of State announced recently.
Although Benson’s cover letter doesn’t include his reasoning for declaring Election Day a holiday, the presumed intent would be to increase voter turnout by eliminating other conflicts, such as employment.
Benson deserves kudos both for his effort and for his initiative’s brevity:
“We, the citizens of California, declare the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of even-numbered years a public holiday, to vote in elections for the offices of United States President and Vice-President and California members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.”
Presumably the holiday would also extend to voting for state senators and members of the Assembly on the same ballot.
Another attempt to boost turnout is voting on the weekend which is the practice in a number of countries.
Australia and New Zealand go to the polls Saturday. Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden vote Sunday. The Swiss, Saturday and Sunday.
Of the countires that vote on weekdays, Canada is Monday. Denmark Tuesday and The Netherlands is Wednesday.
And what caused the United States to select Tuesday?
This was a decision that took effect in 1845. The congressional debate from December 1844 over what day would be best settled on the first Tuesday in November for various reasons.
First, the harvest was usually in by November — a big deal in 1845 America.
Sunday, of course, was the Sabbath and not an option. For America’s farmers, Saturday was a workday and Wednesday, market day. Roads weren’t paved and traveling to a polling place by horse and buggy could take upwards of a day. So Tuesday got the nod.
A sound choice for the leaders of a largely agrarian country to make — 166 years ago.
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