Is Election Day a national holiday? Why you don’t get the day off

President Joe Biden said last year that if he did it his way, “every Election Day would be a day off.” Could that happen soon?

WASHINGTON – Millions of Americans will go to the polls on Tuesday for the 2022 midterm elections – and some political analysts are predicting high turnout.

But voter participation, even as it soars, is likely to follow that of other developed countries. Comparing 2020 voter turnout for voting-age Americans with recent national elections in 49 other countries, the Pew Research Center found the United States ranked 31st.

So how can the US catch up? Among countless other proposals, some voting rights advocates say it’s time to make Election Day a national holiday.

RELATED: Study Ranks Which States Are Hardest To Vote

The idea has bipartisan support – a 2018 Pew Research Center survey found it supported by 71% of Democratic respondents and 59% of Republicans. It has been proposed in Congress many times, and President Joe Biden said last year that if he did it his way, “every Election Day would be a day off.” In fact, Google search data indicates that Americans often wonder if it’s already there.

“More and more people are talking about this,” said Darrell West, vice president and director of governance research at the Brookings Institution. He wrote articles in support of the idea, suggesting that one option would be to move the nearby Veterans Day holiday to Election Day.

“We’re in a situation where both Republicans and Democrats want to get rid of their people,” West said. “This is really a bipartisan proposal that could make that happen.”

But in Washington, the popular idea has yet to reach the president’s desk.

A major Democratic suffrage bill that could make Election Day a national holiday collapsed in the Senate this year when two senators refused to join their party in changing the Senate rules to overcome Republican opposition. Freedom to Vote: The John R. Lewis Act includes many other electoral reform efforts, such as automatic registration of all voters and ensuring access to mail-in ballots.

This isn’t the only Election Day holiday proposal Congress has heard – Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the “Democracy Day Act” in 2018, a concept that has gained support. widely among the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced her “Election Day Vacation Act of 2021” three years later, but both did not see a single vote.

So why not?

American University professor and chief executive officer Capri S. Cafaro, a former Democratic leader in the Ohio Senate, said the National Election Day holiday could look like a “quick fix” for politicians legislating despite various problems.

She said both state and national legislators could focus more on other ways to make voting accessible, like expanding early voting – another measure useful for those unable to leave. out of work to vote. According to the United States Census Bureau, nearly 70% of the votes cast in the 2020 national election were cast before Election Day.

Lack of attention is not the only barrier. Along with opposition from the private sector, Cafaro said lawmakers may be concerned about unintended consequences for other voter turnout efforts and the legislation.

“They might say, ‘Well, you have this day off, why do you need more time to vote?'” Cafaro said. “The whole point behind being able to vote early is to give voters flexibility in case they can’t vote on Election Day itself.”

Although early voting is common in 2020, not all states allow it. The availability of absentee voting also varies, with voters sometimes needing to meet specific criteria. To complicate matters further, many voters face new hurdles – the Brennan Center counts 20 states where some form of restriction has been placed on voting since the 2020 election.

Another common objection is that national holidays don’t guarantee everyone the day off – essential workers, retail workers and many others may still have to work as usual. .

“I think going in the direction of having more businesses closed on Election Day is good,” said Georgetown University public policy and government professor Jonathan Ladd. “Importantly, it probably needs to be a holiday where laws and policies encourage as many businesses to close as possible, rather than something where only the government and white-collar workers are.”

The idea of ​​guaranteeing a voting break has become popular among a number of companies in recent years. Patagonia has been giving its workers the day off since 2016, and more than 1,000 companies have committed to to give employees time off to vote or distribute voting information. Major employers like Walmart and Starbucks guarantee time off or the flexibility to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

What’s next?

For now, the decision remains in the hands of state legislators. Election Day is a paid holiday in more than a dozen states, at least for state employees. A large number of states require employers to provide some time off to vote, if only a few hours. CNBC lists 29 states in this category, plus the District of Columbia. Only 24 of them claimed paid time off.

Some lawmakers want to expand that list. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and several Democrats enacted legislation in April requiring employers to provide their employees with at least two hours of paid leave to quit. vote in a federal election. The bill – known as the Time Off to Vote Act – did not see a single vote in Congress. An earlier version had similar results.

For the National Election Day holiday, the proposal may have the best chance of becoming law as part of a larger bill.

“One of the things that’s holding back the legislation … is the attention of Congress and the president, which is limited,” Ladd said. “Once they’re focused on one electoral reform bill, it’s a little easier to include other reforms.” Is Election Day a national holiday? Why you don’t get the day off

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