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Should Election Day be a National Holiday?

Pro/Con breakdown of national debate

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WHAT IT IS

  • Election Day is the official day for Americans to vote. [USA.gov]
  • Election Day occurs every four years for the president and every two years for Congressmen and Congresswomen (midterms). [TIME]
  • 1845: Congress passed a law requiring Election Day to be the first Tuesday in November. This was to accommodate for white male farmers, the vast majority of voters at the time. [HISTORY]
  • The U.S. is one of the few democracies in the world to vote on a workday. Sunday is the most common election day around the world. [The Washington Post]
  • The U.S. has historically low voter turn out, compared to other developed democracies. [Pew Research Center
  • In 2016, U.S. turnout was lower than 25 other countries, including Belgium, Slovakia, and Estonia. [Pew Research Center]
  • Some have suggested making Election Day a national holiday to increase turn out. 
  • According to Pew Research Center, making Election Day a national holiday is a bipartisan idea. 71% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans favor the idea. [Pew Research Center]

WHY IT MATTERS

 

CIVICS:

  • Democracy performs better when more people vote, yet U.S. voter turnout is one of the lowest in the world. 
  • Democracy can break down when citizens feel disenfranchised by the political processes, disconnected from their governments, and disrespected by elites. In recent years, the practice of American democracy has exhibited some of these corrosive elements
  • The legitimacy of our democracy depends not just on people having equal rights to vote, but also on equal opportunities to vote, and on having representatives chosen by a representative set of citizens. [The Washington Post

SOCIAL: According to the Current Population Survey, the highest voter turnout rates are from salaried professionals with flexible work schedules such as lawyers, educators, and executives. Those with the lowest turnout are hourly paid workers in service jobs in restaurants and retail. In 2014, only 1 in 5 eligible students reported voting. [The Washington Post

 

YES! 

Voter demographics

Since 1845, there has been a historic increase in the voting-eligible population and a shift in voter demographics. [HISTORY]

 

1845 lawmakers catered to the voters - white, male landowners age 21 and older. Now, today's lawmakers need to accommodate 21st-century voters including women and people of color, as well as citizens age 18 and up. Some argue that a national holiday could accommodate for all. 

 

 

Increased turnout

Many are hopeful the national holiday would increase voter turn out. According to a 2014 survey, 35% of those not voting said they didn’t because of work or school conflicts. [The Boston Globe]

 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, registered voters from households making more than $150,000 are more likely to say they do not have time to vote on Election Day. Having a national holiday with time off work could increase turn out. [Forbes]

 

 

Equity

Income, profession, or type of work should not determine voter turnout. All Americans should have an equal opportunity to vote on Election Day. [The Washington Post]

 

 

Celebration of democracy

Some argue that national holidays spark patriotism; that national holidays shine a light on the reason for the designation, and help citizens celebrate democracy. They believe a national holiday would celebrate voting and encourage citizens to participate. [The Post and Courier]

 

NO!

Private companies need not comply

By law, private companies do not need to provide time off to workers on national holidays. 

 

Many fear that corporations would want to stay open on the holiday to serve to those off work, consequently hurting hourly workers that are historically minority workers, of which are disenfranchised to begin. [The New York Times]

 

 

Losses all around

Some argue that having a day-off will result in a loss of productivity for businesses and schools, with the economy taking a hit. [Orlando Sentinel]

 

Many worry hourly workers, who would not automatically receive time off to vote, would have to request time off or not work, resulting in a loss of wages. [The Boston Globe]

 

Some are concerned about the increase in cost for businesses to provide paid time off to workers. Others worry about families affording childcare for the day off school. [Orlando Sentinel]

 

 

Change laws, change policy

Many argue that citizens should not wait for the federal government to act, but rather demand states and local authorities adopt the policy. [The Fulcrum]

 

Others argue that Election Day could be moved to the weekend to better accommodate the public. [USA Today]

 

Many argue that we need to change the system of voting in America, including removing various barriers to voting that many believe to be voter suppression. [The New York Times]

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Jun. 2020: The NBA and WNBA announced Election Day will be a paid holiday for players and employees. [The Wall Street Journal]
  • Feb. 2020: The House of Representatives passed For the People Act, legislation targeting corruption in government and creating a national holiday for Election Day. Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, opposed the legislation. It has not been taken up for a vote by the Senate. [USA Today]
  • Several former Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election support the creation of the national holiday.
  • 2018: Voter turnout spiked for the midterm elections. Some are hopeful that the 2020 presidential election will have historic voter turnout. [Vox]

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

Key Vocabulary