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Column: One Day At Polls Isn't Enough For Voters

This story was written by , Daily Collegian


On Tuesday, thousands of Penn State University students stood in line for hours on campus and in the State College area and, in a break from the normal routine, they weren't waiting to get into Beaver Stadium or a weekend frat party.

On this occasion, everyone was trying to do something just slightly more important. They were electing the next president of the United States.

The record turnout at the polls was great news for the Penn State community and the country as a whole. Clearly, the voter registration drives and increased political awareness on campus prompted more people to cast a ballot.

But the number of people stuck standing in line also brought attention to a glaring problem in the voting process. The issue seems to be Election Day itself. Tuesday just isn't the best day to be choosing a president, at least not for everyone.

The reason for the Tuesday election dates back to the days when America was an agrarian society. In short, that was the easiest day for farmers, so that's when we voted. For those who have yet to notice, though, the United States isn't so agrarian anymore, and hanging on to outdated traditions is making voting inconvenient for many.

Most students probably had no trouble taking time out of the day to vote. We have professors who would gladly allow us to miss a class to exercise our civic duty. On top of that, very few students work full time. All it took for us to vote was the patience to stand in line for a couple of hours.

But what about the people who couldn't get off work on Election Day and need to keep their job to make ends meet? What about the people who couldn't get someone to watch their children for half the day so they can travel to the polling place? For those citizens, voting may not have been a viable option.

So how do we fix this? One idea, proposed by New York Representative Sam Israel, has been to switch from one election day to an election weekend.

The bill represents a major change in American policy, but it makes a lot of sense. With a full weekend to vote, lines wouldn't be as long, more people could find time off from work and there would be more hours available to vote. If you believe that everyone's voice should be heard, this plan brings us a step closer to that goal.

Creating an Election Weekend may be too drastic a change, though -- at least at first. It would require a national movement to a Saturday-Sunday format that is unlikely to be adopted anytime soon. However, there is another option.

In 31 states, not including Pennsylvania, early voting is allowed.

Many Americans who couldn't make it to the polls on Tuesday for one reason or another were given the option the turn in their ballot the previous week. This election, about one-third of voters took advantage of that option.

It does take away from some of the aura of Election Day, but what's more important, tradition or democracy? And since early voting is a state initiative, it wouldn't require a nation-wide change.

To the 31 states that allowed early voting, kudos for making the process more convenient. It is our belief that Pennsylvania should follow in their footsteps and allow early voting so that everyone who intends to vote will have an equal opportunity to do so. It's only fair.

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