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Weekend voting an idea whose time has come? Obama thinks so.

July 18, 2008 |  2:05 pm

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) wandered around Capitol Hill recently, armed with a video camera and a question: Why do we vote on Tuesdays?

“Um...”

That was the response from most people -– even lawmakers.

“Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know the answer,” Israel reassured his perplexed interviewees. “Hardly anybody does, including most members of Congress.”

Israel made the video to push the Weekend Voting Act, legislation he introduced last month that would switch the days on which federal elections are held from Tuesdays to Saturdays and Sundays, when, presumably, more people would be able to cast ballots.

The clip is posted on the website of Why Tuesday? which is dedicated to increasing voter turnout through election reform.

Jacob Soboroff, the site’s director (and the son of former Los Angeles mayoral candidate Steve Soboroff), has crisscrossed the....

...country on behalf of WhyTuesday? posting video interviews with many big-name politicians, including Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain.

Obama said he would support a shift to weekend voting. McCain didn't take a stance on that point, but he promised Soboroff that he would do anything to increase voter participation.

When asked if he thought an alternative idea -- declaring a national voters' holiday -- would work, McCain was skeptical.

“I’m not sure that people wouldn’t just go fishing,” he said.

Perhaps luckily for them, neither Obama nor McCain was asked the question that Israel posed to tourists and lawmakers in his video: Why Tuesday?

It turns out Congress chose Tuesday for a voting day in 1845 to make the process easier for citizens of an agrarian society. Back then, farmers needed to vote on a day that wouldn’t interfere with the three-day Sabbath or Wednesday, which was market day.

Today, according to Soboroff, one in four people who don’t vote say it’s because weekdays are inconvenient.

-- Kate Linthicum