- Report Published -
|Desirability and Feasibility of Conducting Elections on Saturdays or Sundays|
|Division of Legislative Services|
|SJR 232 (Regular Session, 1993)|
|I. PURPOSE OF THE STUDY|
Fifty-five percent of the voting age population of the United States voted in the November 1992 elections according to Election Data Services. Election Data Services compiled data based on registration and turnout figures reported by state election officials. The United States Bureau of the Census estimates that 61 percent of the civilian, non-institutional voting age population voted. The Census Bureau bases its estimate on a national survey it conducts after each federal election. The 1992 sample included 57,400 households.
Both sources show increased voting rates in 1992, reversing a downward spiral of voter interest that began in the 1960s. The 1992 turnout was the highest since 1972 by the Census Bureau's estimate and since 1968 according to Election Data Services. These rates are still considerably below those reported in most other democratic countries, however, and turnout in off-year federal, state, and local elections typically falls well below 50 percent.
More Virginians voted in 1992 than ever before. The turnout of 2,558,665 for President represented 52.84 percent of the voting age population according to Election Data Services. This figure does not include the 24,000 voters who went to the polls in 1992 but did not cast a vote in the presidential contest. However, Virginia still lags behind the national average, ranking thirty-seventh nationally in this category in the Election Data Services report.
Concerned observers from time to time propose weekend elections as one antidote to the high rate of non-voting in the United States, noting that several of the nations where higher percentages of the electorate turn out conduct elections on Saturday or Sunday. Proponents assume that more Americans likewise would vote in a weekend election. They argue that potential voters would have more time and flexibility to get to the polls and could avoid conflicts with work, school, or other workday activities. Voting might spread more uniformly throughout the day on a weekend, reducing the time spent at the polls and removing that disincentive to voting.
Senate Joint Resolution No. 232 (1993) directed the Division of Legislative Services to investigate the desirability of conducting elections in Virginia on Saturday or Sunday, or on both days. The feasibility of holding federal elections on those days also is to be examined. A number of factors must be considered to determine whether it is feasible or desirable to conduct weekend elections. The factors considered in this study include:
• Experience with Saturday or Sunday voting elsewhere in the United States
• Administrative impacts of weekend voting such as the availability of polling places and election officials willing to serve
• Savings or additional costs that might be associated with weekend voting
• Public reaction to Saturday or Sunday voting, particularly the sentiments of religious faiths and denominations to elections on their day of worship
• Increases or decreases in opportunity to vote if election day is on a weekend
• Federal laws that would affect the ability to hold federal elections on a weekend
• Extent to which holding elections on a workday or a day of rest is a factor in voter turnout
II. HOW DATA WAS COLLECTED
A survey was mailed to a selected list of Virginia election officials, voter groups, religious organizations, and other parties (See Appendix A). Each was asked to assess the effect of Saturday or Sunday elections on its membership and to state its position, if any, on the issue. We obtained information from election officials in Louisiana and Texas, states with recent experience with Saturday elections, and interviewed Virginia's Secretary of Elections, Michael Brown.
We reviewed research on reasons for declining registration and turnout in the United States and comparisons of American election administration with that of other countries. Individuals recognized as knowledgeable in the conduct of American elections were interviewed by telephone.