Tuesday was Election Day, and pundits and reporters alike analyzed it as a political litmus test for how Americans are feeling about the country. In particular, this round of elections was framed as a key measure of Democrats’ electability one year out from when the public will decide whether to reelect President Biden. But I’m not interested in talking about lazy punditry and the horse race. I want to talk about Election Day itself and voters’ access to the ballot box. One piece of news on Election Day that largely flew under the radar was the introduction of the bipartisan ”Election Day Act” sponsored by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI). The Election Day Act would make the first Tuesday of November (Election Day), a federal holiday. You might be wondering: “Why is this so important, Chris?” Well, to put it simply, voting is crucial to the upkeep of our Democracy. And to vote, you have to be able to show up.
There are a multitude of reasons why Election Day being a day off is a good civics and governance tool. As Brookings put it, first and foremost, it would help stabilize our democracy by guaranteeing that people have the time to actually vote. Far too many of our citizens cannot exercise this fundamental right because they do not have the time. As adults we have responsibilities; jobs, children, errands, and the like. In fact, to the point about jobs, hourly workers oftentimes have to choose between voting and making money to survive.
Having the paid time off to vote would allow more people to be able to enjoy the Democratic process. Not only would this allow for more people to be able to vote, but also would allow parents to afford childcare so they can take some time to engagee in the upkeep of our Democracy. States like Minnesota and Colorado offer a few hours paid time to vote, and had record turnout in the 2022 midterms.
Making Election Day a paid day off would help turnout among historically marginalized communities. Amidst the wave of new voter suppression laws, this reform could help the Black and Hispanic/Latino populations that have been disproportionately affected. Many states, like Georgia and Iowa, have brazenly enacted laws that specifically target hourly wage workers, a group known to be disproportionately voters of color. and hourly wage workers. Whether it be limiting polling places, putting limits on times where predominantly Black polling precincts are open, or other barriers, it is undoubtedly becoming harder for Black and Hispanic voters to cast their ballots. On Election Day, for example, in Mississippi, there were reports of ballot shortages in some predominantly Black counties. Mississippi has a long history of discriminatory voting practices that have specifically targeted Black voters. Election Day being a federal holiday would blunt some of these tactics by giving these voters the time to make it to their polling place and get to the ballot box well before closing.
Now all the reasons outlined here should be reason enough to make Election Day a holiday. However, the major opposition has, yet again, come in the form of Republicans. In a past attempt to make Election Day a day off, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (whose home state hilariously enough made the Presidential election day a holiday) described it has a “power grab.”(R-KY),because more federal workers happen to be Democrats, is pretty illustrative of the reason why; it would hurt Republicans. This is a commonly held belief that even Trump has raised concerns over.
There are a total of nineteen states that have some form of an Election Day holiday. We can continue the push for more historic turnout if we continue to push for more people to be able to vote instead of less.