Should Election Day Be a National Holiday?
By: Caitlyn McIntosh
Wright State University student Sydney Rudloff says it’s hard for her to make time to vote. As a political science major, voting is something that she values, but it comes at a cost. As a full-time student who works part time, her schedule doesn’t allow for much flexibility. In order to vote, she must miss part of her school day or schedule time off work, both of which are valuable times she can’t afford to miss.
Sydney is not alone. The United States ranks 26th out of 32 in voter turnout among developed democratic nations. Some voters do not have time to vote because of school, work, or other commitments that conflict with getting to the polls. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has pending legislation to make election day a national holiday to allow all Americans the time to get to the polls.
Waiting in polling lines in 2012 cost Americans $544 million in lost productivity. Since election day falls on a Tuesday, most people are forced to choose work over voting in fear of the wages they will lose during the time that voting takes.
The idea of election day being held on the first Tuesday in November dates back to when the country was first founded. Having elections in November was convenient because fall harvesting was over. Election day could not be held on Wednesday because that was town market day, and weekends were held strictly for religious worship. The issue was resolved by elections being held on Tuesdays as people were out of town for religious retreats.
The legislation proposed by Sanders in 2015 may not be a cure all, but it would likely increase the voter turnout. Sanders argues that voting is a right that all citizens have fought to have, and should celebrate being able to choose the leaders of the country. Having election day off, would allow those worried about finances to feel at ease getting to the polls by not having to worry about the money they are losing while being there.
Debra Cleaver realizes that a whole day off might not be realistic, implementing the ElectionDay.org initiative. Cleaver’s initiative urges employers to allow some form of time off for election day, so people are able to exercise their right to vote without worrying about losing money. Whether it is the whole day or just a few hours, companies decide how much of a break they will allow employees so they can get to the polls. While about 30 states require time off for voting, not all of them are paid. Over 150 companies have signed with Cleaver to allow their employees time off for voting and the list is only growing.
However, some people argue that paid time off for voting is enough and a holiday is not necessary. One of the biggest arguments for this is that there are some companies that do not shut down for national holidays, such as small businesses, hospitals, and retail chains to name a few. People who work at these jobs will not be able to take advantage of the time off, which will hinder them from voting.
Those with school-aged children would lose their child care for the day, and those working jobs that do not close on holidays would be working harder due to others being off for the day. This would put working class people at a fault and may actually have a counter effect on the voting turnout.
Others argue that a holiday is not needed because Americans can apply to vote absentee. Voting absentee allows people to send in a ballot by mail rather than casting their vote in person at the polls. Some states require an excuse for not being able to vote in person, such as physical disability, living overseas, military commitments, and more.
Ohio no longer requires an excuse to vote absentee, but ballots do need to be submitted by a certain time. Depending on the state, voting absentee can be a loophole for those not willing to wait in line, or an extremely useful tool for those dedicated voters unable to make it to the polls.
According to Fairvote.org, politicians with views on the far ends of the political spectrum aren’t in favor of a holiday because they benefit from lower voter turnout. Citizens with extremist views are more likely to get to the polls no matter what, because they are passionate about their beliefs and voting for the candidates who with further their agenda. The citizens with more moderate views don’t make voting as high of a priority because they do not have a polarizing issue driving them to the polls.