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Our View: Would weekend voting improve election turnout?

Americans may be voting on the weekends, if U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin has his way.

The Weekend Vote Act has been introduced again in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. The bill has been introduced in previous sessions of Congress but has gotten nowhere.

The proposal calls for an end to voting on the first Tuesday of November, which has been the tradition since 1945. Election day would instead be conducted on the first full weekend in November, offering polling hours on both Saturday and Sunday.

Under the plan, polls could be open from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday, although local elections officials would be given the option to close the polls in the overnight hours if they so choose.

Kohl and other backers of the idea say the expanded weekend hours would give voters a better chance to participate in the civic process. Too often, families headed by two working adults find it very difficult getting to the polls on a work and school night, they claim.

Their arguments make sense, but one has to wonder if weekend hours will solve the problem. So many families use the weekend to unwind, and they often leave town on Friday night and don't return until late on Sunday. Given the choice between rest and recreation versus voting, a fair number of people still may decide not to head to the polls.

Perhaps a better solution to the turnout problem is a continued and stepped up promotion of absentee balloting. This past presidential election saw a huge number of ballots cast prior to November's election day. So long as the system is able to handle the early balloting and every vote is eventually counted, that's a good way to get more voters involved.

With greater flexibility for voters wanting to cast their ballots early, the traditional Tuesday should continue to work for the American democratic process.