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  • Larissa Martin

Why Congress Should Make Election Day A National Holiday

Election Day is the Tuesday after the first Monday of each November, and it’s one of the most important days of the year. Taking time to vote matters, but because Election Day always falls on a weekday, some people who might vote don’t vote at all. To make matters worse, there’s no federal law giving voters time off to head to the polls — “voting leave” laws are on a state-by-state basis. This leaves many of the people who do vote frantically trying to vote before work or during their lunch breaks — or showing up to vote exhausted after work.

In fact, 35 percent of non-voting Americans reported that everyday obligations prevented them from voting.

The obvious solution to this problem is to make Election Day a national holiday. If Americans had Election Day off of work, they’d have far more time to vote, and some of the people who don’t usually vote would make their voices heard in the elections. The American public agrees — according to a 2018 Pew Research Center poll, 65 percent of Americans support making Election Day a national holiday. 

But legislation on the issue is far ahead of Congress’s mindset.

In 2018, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to make Election Day a national holiday, but it never reached the voting stage. In 2021, Representative Anna Eshoo introduced similar legislation, but once again, it never reached a vote. And in 2022, the Freedom to Vote Act failed to pass, despite receiving nearly every Democratic vote in the Senate. 

In the summer of 2023, Senator Angus King introduced legislation that could make Election Day a federal holiday, create an automatic online voter registration system, and require all states to offer same-day voter registration. All of these parts of the legislation could make registering to vote far easier and dramatically increase the amount of voters who show up to vote on Election Day. The Senate seems to agree — as of July 2023, 40 Senators supported King’s legislation. This is a promising start for legislation on an issue that legislators don’t usually support. Furthermore, in February 2024, Representative Eshoo reintroduced the Election Day Holiday Act, the same act that didn’t pass in 2018 and 2021. With congresspeople seeming to support an Election Day federal holiday, hopefully, some of this legislation will fare better now than it did in the past.

Congress needs to prioritize this type of legislation because, unlike most congresspeople, the average Americans don’t have voter-friendly workplaces or circumstances. In states without “voting leave” laws, voters with 9-to-5 jobs rely on their bosses to give them permission to leave the office and head to the polls, which is always a gamble. Students risk missing classes to vote, which makes voting challenging, even if their campuses have polling places. And some people may need to take public transportation to their nearest polling location, which increases the voting time that they need.

This means that the people who can vote could skew who wins our elections because a large part of the population can’t take the time to vote.

If Congress made Election Day a federal holiday, not only would voter turnout increase, but Americans of all backgrounds could also have a say in our election results. We say that voting matters, but it needs to matter enough that everyone who wants to vote can vote. Americans need to get Election Day off work and school so that they can exercise their voting rights and have a fair opportunity to choose our country’s leaders.

Featured Photo by Edmond Dantes on Pexels.



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