Why election day should be a national holiday


(Emily Stull)

(Emily Stull)

By Charlie Wiltsee

As I sit on the couch again stressing over the election, I wonder about something that is far from a new idea. Why is the most important day in American politics on a Tuesday in November that isn’t even a holiday?

There are many national holidays, and none are as important as election day. As a democracy, it is extremely important that we prioritize public participation in both local and national elections. There is a sizable amount of the population not participating in elections because of job and family obligations, so it isn’t truly democratic. Being democratic means people have power, and allowing the majority of the population to decide on key issues. 

There are many people who work multiple jobs or long hours to support their families. The majority of them most likely are not able to take time off, and those that can’t will not be able to vote. While mail-in ballots are accepted, a large number of Americans will miss out on voting, possibly changing the outcomes of many votes. 

According to Penn State University Libraries, only 58.1% of voting-eligible Americans voted in the 2016 election, which is about 138 million people. This number would likely increase considerably if election day was a national holiday. 

Initially, election day was decided to be on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. It is on a Tuesday because back in 1845 when it was set, the United States was a largely agrarian society, and Tuesdays aligned with the farmers’ schedules with the harvest and sale of their goods. Today’s society is different, and the majority of Americans have to work on Tuesdays. It makes sense that there should be adjustments made, because of how much society has changed since the 1800s.

Unlike the United States, Australia has made voting mandatory, and declining to vote is punishable by a fine. According to CNN, 90% of Australians participate in elections, much more than what is seen in the United States. More participation in elections would show a more accurate view of who the nation decides should be the next leader and would represent much more of the population.

According to Pew Research, out of the 36 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 27 of them hold election day on the weekend. Additionally, Israel and South Korea have made it a national holiday. In its recent election, South Korea saw a voter turnout of 66.2% according to CNN, a whole 8.1% difference from the United States.

Many Americans who do not want to make election day a national holiday argue that the more people that vote, the more likely it is that a Democrat will win. According to CNN, a majority of the nonvoting population would lean towards voting democratic, and that would likely give Democrats a greater advantage in the polls. However, as earlier stated, a democracy is letting the public make the decisions, and if the public wants to go one way, they should be able to. To Republicans or non-Democrats who are hesitant to support this idea, voting is an integral part of this country and it is key to keeping it running smoothly. It is not a legitimate democracy if there are a lot of people who don’t participate, and if the majority of the population wants something to change, then it should.

It is clear that the voter turnout would increase if it was a national holiday, and while there have been attempts to make it so, nothing has worked so far. It is currently unclear what the future holds and if a change could be made in the coming years, so all that we can do now is continue to raise the discussion and petition for changes.