Kay has been working in the legal defense field for almost a decade, with a degree in political science and background in criminal justice.
The Right to Vote
The right to vote is a key tenet of American ideology. Our fight for independence from Britain during the Revolutionary War was, in part, based on the principal that citizens should have an active say in the leadership of their country. Even in the modern world of today, it is a privilege, and an honor, to hold the power to choose the elected officials within your own country.
Unfortunately, there are occasionally obstacles in place which may make it difficult for some to actively participate in the electoral process. Accessibility, time, finances, and many other factors can impede the voting process for countless Americans.
Over the last few years, a number of bills have been introduced to attempt to combat many of these roadblocks and provide increased access to voting resources in this country. However, there has been much debate as to whether this is necessary, or even feasible, in our world today.
What Is Election Day?
In the United States, Election Day is always held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. On this day, Americans who've properly registered to vote can cast their ballots for their candidate of choice or for certain political or social measures.
This date and process has remained ostensibly the same since the founding of Election Day in 1845, with a few key differences today; namely, regarding the eligibility of those who wish to vote.
Historically, people of color, women, Native Americans, immigrants, and those who do not own land have had to fight for the right to participate in U.S. elections. Although most groups have the right to vote today, many obstacles still exist which may make it significantly more difficult for these groups to exercise that right.
Obstacles to Voting Access
One of the most oft-cited roadblocks to voting for people is finding the time. A busy schedule is often cited as a reason why many aren't able to make it to the polls. According to research by Procon.org:
"Among registered voters in the 2016 US presidential election, being 'too busy' or having a conflicting schedule was the third-highest reason cited for not voting, accounting for 14% of registered voters who did not cast a vote (about 2.7 million people)."
Countless professions that keep society functioning require on-site labor, and may include long hours away from home, such as jobs within the medical field, agriculture, and law enforcement, to name just a few.
Several employers also do not offer substantial opportunities for occasional leave, especially paid leave, which many need in order to find the time to get to their polling locations. There are many who cannot afford to forfeit a day's pay or risk losing their employment just to cast their vote.
There are also those who don't have adequate access to transportation as well. In communities across the county, public transit may be sporadic, incompatible with one's availability, in desperate need of an update, or maybe non-existent if local budgeting could not afford it.
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Rideshare services are typically very expensive and also not available in all communities, adding to the difficulty of actually getting oneself to their polling locations.
These are just a few factors which frequently prevent residents of this country with the accessibility to exercise their constitutional rights to vote.
A Federal Holiday Could Increase Access to Voting
As mentioned above, many people struggle to find the time to vote in their busy lives while navigating their work schedule, transportation, taking care of family members, and more. Making the day a national holiday would insure that government institutions, schools, and countless private businesses would be closed that day, allowing employees to vote on their own schedule.
There would also be an increase in opportunities for voters to carpool and provide transportation and resources to those who may not normally have the means. Additionally, many polling locations currently suffer from short staff, resulting in longer wait times for voters.
Creating the day as a federal holiday would also mean that there would be more people who may be available to volunteer to work their local polling stations, which would dramatically expedite the process for everyone involved.
Finally, federal holidays typically commemorate some of the most important aspects of American history and culture, such as Presidents Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day. In a country that was founded on principals of self-governance, why wouldn't the day where we actively choose our leaders and our policies be acknowledged the same way?
The Global Comparison
As of 2022, most democratic nations around the globe make their election day a national holiday to allow citizens to vote. In these elections, voter turnout numbers have been significantly higher than those of the United States in the last several decades. Australia in particular frequently sees approximately 90% of its population turn out to vote in elections.
In stark contrast, the United States frequently only sees slightly over half of all eligible voters participating. In the 2020 presidential election, for example, only 67% of all eligible voters made their voices heard—a record high for the last few years, and a full 5 percentage points over the 2016 election.
If you feel that Election Day should be considered a federal holiday, contact your local congressional representative using the information below, and, just like on election day, make sure your voice is heard, loud and clear:
Question: Is Election Day a federal holiday?
Answer: No, it is not. However, Election Day has been declared a civic holiday by many states including Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and the territory of Puerto Rico. It is usually a day that the state legislature declares as a non-working day (when government offices and the court systems are closed).
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Kay Plumeau