Why Tuesday? Because Republicans Said So

Earlier this week, The Washington Post's Ezra Klein profiled the "Why Tuesday" organization. Here's how that group explains the history of our current election calendar:

In 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for Americans to vote. We were an agrarian society. We traveled by horse and buggy. 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. So that left Tuesday and Wednesday, but Wednesday was market day. So, Tuesday it was. In 1875 Congress extended the Tuesday date for national House elections and in 1914 for federal Senate elections.

Of course the constraints that made people in the 1800s choose Tuesday no longer apply in the modern era. Without a bias for the status quo, there would be no reason to choose Tuesday over Wednesday or Thurday.

Klein advocated for The Weekend Voting Act, a bill that would move and extend the election period to the first weekend in November. But there is an even simpler solution already in place across the country: early voting. In the 32 states with early voting, Election Day is still technically a Tuesday, but voters are allowed to cast their ballots at other, more convenient times, including via mail.

Early voting didn't really take off until the last 20 years according to the Early Voting Information Center. But the trend toward increased access has taken a sharp turn over the past year. Reductions to the periods of early voting have been a key component in the Republican Party's effort to suppress voter turnout. In Ohio—where 30 percent of ballots cast in 2008 were early or absentee votes—the new Republican-controlled government restricted in-person early voting to just 11 days; it had previously been available for a 35-day window. In Georgia, the window for early voting dropped from 45 days to 21. Five states have abridged early voting this year, including Florida, which canceled voting on the Sunday before the election. This directly targets black voters; black churches have traditionally helped increase turnout in a "Souls to the Polls" effort that, according to Time, resulted in African Americans accounting for one-third of the early votes cast on Sundays.