In 2010, just about 41 percent of Americans who were eligible to vote actually bothered to make the trek to their local polling place. And the number one excuse given by those who stayed away? They were just too busy.
And it makes sense if you think about it: Tuesday is the middle of the workweek. Those of us at the bottom of the employment ladder have to worry about making it in to work ahead of the boss. And those of us balancing our careers and our families have to figure out who's picking up Junior from school, who's taking Princess to ballet lessons, and whether or not we're going to shoot our fellow drivers while spending way too much time in a soul-sucking commute.
Sadly, making a detour to the local church basement to choose whether Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones should go to Washington just seems like a major inconvenience for many.
And we can't really blame them. So why the heck do we vote on Tuesday, anyway?
"Honestly, in 2011, going on 2012, there is no good reason that we vote on Tuesday," said Jacob Soboroff, the Executive Director of Why Tuesday?, a nonpartisan group looking for new ways to boost voter particpation in the U.S.
In fact, to come up with a decent reason for voting on the second day of the workweek, you have to travel back to 1845, a time before Texas and Florida were even in the U.S., the rubber band wasn't yet invented, and Thoreau was just starting to see what life was like on Walden Pond.
You see, that was the year Congress decided we should all be voting on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. And it wasn't always such a horrible idea.
"There was a good reason [to vote on Tuesday] in 1845, when Americans travelled by horse and buggy in the largely agrarian society at the time," said Soboroff. "You had to take a day or longer to get to the county seat to vote. A day longer to get back. You couldn’t travel on days of religious observance. Wednesday was market day. So basically, Tuesday was it by process of elimination. And that rule—silly or not—still stands today."
But not if Soboroff has the final word.
Since 2006, he and his partners in crime at Why Tuesday? have been criss-crossing the country, asking politicians and average Joes and Janes if they knew why we voted on Tuesday. In the process, they've been stirring up a national conversation about how we exercise our right to vote—and how we can do it better.
On Monday, Meghan McCain, congressional scholar Norman Ornstein, and a panel of other D.C. allstars are joining Soboroff for the kickoff of Why Tuesday's efforts for the for the 2012 election season. They'll be talking about how we can create a Voting Rights Act for the 21st Century. Can't make it over to the Newseum? You can watch live at their website starting at 9:30 a.m. ET.
So what are some of the great ideas the Why Tuesday team has heard over the years? Well, how would you feel about weekend voting? That's how they do it across most of Europe. What about extended periods of early voting? Same-day registration? And since you can transfer money from your bank account over the Internet, why not one day to cast your ballot for President that way?
Check out the video below from the Why Tuesday? team to find out more about their work. And if you want in on the conversation about creating a better voting system in America, follow Why Tuesday? on Twitter, or like them on Facebook.