Around-the-Clock Voting

Keep the booths open and they will come.
Photographer: Graham Denholm/Getty Images

I missed a fun post from Norm Ornstein a few days ago in which he offers a bunch of experiments for Washington, D.C., to improve voter turnout.

I'm not a huge fan of most of his specific suggestions; for example, I'm not convinced that weekend voting would do much good, and I'm not thrilled about a lottery (with lucky voters getting some reward). But sure: laboratories of democracy and all that, even if the District isn't quite a state. Can't hurt to try.

But he does mention one idea I favor: 24-hour voting.

I'd love to see some jurisdiction give it a try to see whether it would improve turnout. I suppose it doesn't have to actually be the full 24 hours; you could shut down from midnight to 6:00 a.m., or perhaps just have one centrally located polling place open with the ability for everyone to vote there. Here in San Antonio, our early-voting polling places are configured so that anyone in the county can vote at any polling place. I'm not thrilled at the idea of totally getting rid of local precinct voting, but it's not as if a lot of people are going to vote in the middle of the night. Would 24-hour voting increase turnout, or at least increase turnout enough to be worth the cost? I have no idea! But someone should try it.

One side-benefit of universal 24-hour voting would be that we could finally put an end to the problem of national elections being called before West Coast (and Hawaii and Alaska) polling places have closed. If everyone had 24-hour voting, then they could all coordinate to close at the same time. Eastern time zone states could go from 9:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; California could go from 6:00 p.m. to 6 p.m. local time. Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't see any particular reason that any state or either party would be disadvantaged. And no one would have to choose between shorter hours and risking the election being called while people are still voting.

So that's my gimmicky voting suggestion. But generally, I think Norm is exactly right that pro-voting jurisdictions should experiment with different ideas. Anyone know of any good ones?

QuickTake Voting Rights

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

    (Jonathan Bernstein covers U.S. politics for Bloomberg View. He is co-editor of "The Making of the Presidential Candidates 2012." Follow him onTwitter at @JBPlainblog.)

    To contact the author on this story:
    Jonathan Bernstein at

    To contact the editor on this story:
    Max Berley at

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.