Make Election Day A National Holiday

Make Election Day A National Holiday


In the last presidential election in 2012, 56.6 percent of all voting-age Americans participated in the election. That’s pretty dismal.

Simply put, we have a serious issue in our country regarding voter turnout. We’re all supposed to have a say in how our country will run and who will run it, right? Many talking heads out there will say it’s voter apathy and laziness that’s leading to such low turnout numbers at the polls.

Studies show that the number one reason people aren’t voting is that they “didn’t have the time” or couldn’t make it to the polls because of an illness or disability, and they were 67 percent of those who didn’t vote in 2014, according to data by the Pew Research Center. Out of that 67 percent, 35 percent said work or school conflicted with being able to vote, and 34 percent said they were too busy, sick, out of town or forgot.

Not only that, but voter identification laws could be seen as dog-whistle politics meant to suppress the working poor, and often mishandled voter registration purges — exhibit A being the purge Arkansas had earlier this year — make voting convoluted and difficult at best and impossible at worst.

Maybe Tuesdays are just inconvenient days. Ever wondered why elections are always the second Tuesday of November?

It’s an antiquated policy from the youngest days of our country. We used the be a nation of farmers out on the frontier, many of whom were Christian. So, in order to best appease the time schedules of Americans, Sunday was skipped because of the Biblical Sabbath, Monday was intended to be a traveling day by horse and buggy to the county seat’s election box, and Tuesday was election day so the farmers could attempt to get back in town for Wednesday, which was traditionally market day. This worked for almost 200 years, but now we’re in 2016, and the way everything works has changed — dramatically.

Some of the first solutions to the changing lives of Americans were early voting or mail-in ballots — fun fact, in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, their entire voting system is done through mail — and that works well for states like Arkansas, which opens polls two weeks prior to Election Day.

However, there are still 12 states that don’t utilize early voting and make all of its citizens vote solely on Election Day. This is where a huge problem comes up, leading to a lot of challenges for voters to find the time to go to a polling site and then wait in line to vote. Sometimes lines can take up to hours in these states. Thank God Arkansas is ahead of the tide on that, even if our early voting is in-person only.

So here’s my suggestion, and it isn’t original by any means, but if we’re going to have July 4 as a national holiday celebrating the declaration of independence, isn’t it a no-brainer we should make a celebration out of the day where we do the whole democracy thing we’ve fought for ever since?

Think about it. How cool would it be to one, ensure our workforce, or at least as many of them as possible, a day off from work to reflect on their voting choices and go vote at their convenience and two, have a day to celebrate the fact we have an established democracy? If Congress won’t do it, I’d like to see it happen at schools, colleges, businesses and states.

Puerto Rico actually already does this, and they hold festivals, parades, fairs and parties all day. Guess what? Their voter engagement is through the roof compared to ours with an average 79 percent turnout from 1972 to 2000. Only 11 states surpassed 60 percent engagement in that time period.

You could argue that those in the service industry who would likely still have to work would still be screwed, but that’s also why early voting should be implemented so the days they have off they can go vote. You could also argue that this would be a volatile, horrible day where nothing but infighting and aggressive voter manipulation would run rampant, but that already kinda happens everyday anyway. But that’s a different conversation.

I see only positives to it besides the fact we get another holiday off from work. Officials can talk all day long about how much America means to them and the virtues of democracy, but as long as droves of ballots are left empty those statements mean a lot less.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: Commentary