Former Newsom Campaign Manager Leads Charge For Saturday Voting

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Why Tuesday? volunteers decorate a car in the Castro
Alex Tourk, head of Ground Floor Public Affairs and former campaign manager for Mayor Gavin Newsom, is spearheading the effort to qualify a ballot initiative that would extend voting hours to Saturdays in San Francisco. It's a move he and other advocates argue would increase election turnout.

Tourk told SF Weekly he has personally loaned $5,000 to the "Why Tuesday?" campaign, which is seeking to gather the necessary 10,000 signatures to get the so-called Saturday Voting Act on the November ballot. (He said the campaign was a personal project and not an effort his public-affairs firm had undertaken on behalf of a client.) An additional $25,000 has come from renowned Silicon Valley investor Ron Conway, Tourk said.

"If we really want to increase access to the democratic process, especially for working families, we should do what the rest of the world does and vote on Saturday," Tourk said. "I just think it's the right thing to do, and I believe more people voting in San Francisco is a good thing." Beginning at 11 a.m. tomorrow, the campaign will hold a volunteer signature-gathering rally at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center on McAllister.

A diverse range of countries -- including France, Brazil, Australia, and China -- hold elections on the weekends to maximize voter participation. While early voting and voting by mail become increasingly popular in the U.S., Tourk said he doesn't believe mail-in ballots have much appeal to younger voters, and that many people still enjoy the poll-going ritual of election day.

One tricky question is how the additional poll hours and workers would be paid for. Tourk said that in order to relieve San Francisco taxpayers of the burden of funding another voting day -- the initiative would keep Tuesday voting intact while adding the weekend polling time -- the test run for Saturday voting in November 2011 would be financed by private donations.

That's an unorthodox proposal -- to say the least -- for underwriting this most fundamental aspect of the public's business. Tourk said the funding sources would be all be disclosed. "I recognize that some people are going to hear the term 'private' and are going to be suspect. But it's going to be totally transparent," he said.

Photo   |   Lois Beckett


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