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Why Election Day isn’t a national holiday in the US



I voted
Would you be more likely to vote if Election Day were a
national holiday?

Getty / Joe

  • In the US, Election Day is not a national holiday. But some
    think it should be.
  • US voter turnout trails most developed countries. During the
    2016 presidential election, less than 56% of the estimated
    voting-age population in the US voted.
  • It would take an act of Congress to make Election Day a
    national holiday, and there is currently a bill proposing to
    designate “Democracy Day” as a national election holiday before a
    special committee.

Election Day isn’t a national holiday in the US, but some people
think it should be.

the majority of US states have voter leave laws
guarantee certain employees a modicum of time off to vote, no
federal law currently mandates that employees get time off to
cast their ballots.

So when faced with choices like having to take unpaid time off
work to vote, waking at the wee hours of the morning to vote so
that they’re not late to work, standing in hours-long lines with
everyone else who waited until after the workday to cast their
ballot, or simply not voting at all, many choose the latter.

Of the nonvoters surveyed by the US Census Bureau about the 2008
presidential election
the 2012 presidential election
, and
numerous other elections
, the most commonly cited reason for
not voting was being too busy or having conflicting work

Read more:
You can take time off from work to
vote in 30 states — here’s the full list

According to Pew Research data
, US voter turnout trails most
developed countries. While countries like Belgium, Sweden, and
Turkey saw more than 80% of their estimated voting-age population
cast votes in recent elections, less than 56% of the estimated
voting-age population in the US
voted during the 2016 presidential election

Some countries, including Belgium and Turkey, see such high voter
turnout mainly because of their
compulsory voting laws
. But while
experts say such a scheme is unlikely to fly in the US
making it easier for people to vote would appear to be a step in
the right direction.

The founding fathers at first only granted white, male property
owners the right to vote, so the expansion of voting rights has
taken some time.

Read more:
The evolution of American voting
rights in 242 years shows how far we’ve come — and how far we
still have to go

To make Election Day a national holiday, it would take an act of
Congress, and so far, no bills proposing such action have passed.

Most recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont proposed
a bill
to designate “Democracy
” as a national election holiday, which sits before a
special committee.

“Election Day should be a national holiday so that everyone has
the time and opportunity to vote,” Sanders’ website
. “While this would not be a cure-all, it would indicate
a national commitment to create a more vibrant democracy.”

Other politicians
, businesses, and
advocacy groups
have voiced their approval of celebrating
Election Day as a national holiday.

In an interview with President Barack Obama in 2016
, Dan
Corey, editor-in-chief of Rutgers University’s official student
newspaper, The Daily Targum, asked Obama about what could be done
to reverse the US’s low voter turnout:

The Daily Targum: “You have pointed out many
times that voter turnout in the United States is very low,
especially compared to other developed nations. But in many other
countries, the government automatically registers voters and
holds elections on days that are weekend days or national
holidays. Do you think it’s time for the US to follow their

Obama: “Absolutely. We are the only advanced
democracy that makes it deliberately difficult for people to

Others, however, are skeptical that creating a national holiday
would increase voter turnout. As
Osita Nwanevu wrote for Slate
, “Low turnout is a complicated
problem, and some of the more obvious-seeming remedies haven’t
really worked… There’s nothing that would stop voters here from
treating a Democracy Day like just another day off.”

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