photo from Max Pixel
By Diamond Bridges
As we leave the midterm elections with Democrats taking over the House and Republicans still in control of the Senate, there is something we should prepare for when the presidential elections come along. That is voter turnouts. There are a multitude of reasons for why voter turnouts fluctuate, but I want to ask: “Should Election Day become a national holiday?” Yes. It should definitely become one.
When elections come around, everyone always tries to encourage others to vote. But that doesn’t always seem to get positive results. The United States is infamously known for our lower voter turnout percentages compared to other countries, in not only the midterm elections but also the presidential elections. According to FairVote, in the United States, only 60 percent of the voting-eligible population votes during presidential elections, while 40 percent would vote during midterms.
Countries such as Belgium have one of the highest voter turnouts at 87.2 percent in its last federal election in 2014, according to research by the Pew Research Center.
Many countries consider their election days national holiday, which helps increase public participation. Some even have voting days during the weekends, allowing more people to vote without facing penalties from their jobs. However, the U.S. holds Election Day on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, which is ridiculous to me. If you’re trying to encourage voting-eligible people to vote, then why make it harder for them to do so when they have responsibilities — such as work, school or children — to take care of?
That sounds like a huge contradiction to me.
Imagine yourself in the shoes of the average working American adult who is eligible to vote. Now, you will most likely have a typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, and you’re exhausted, but you have to go vote after a long day. A lot of people are turned off by the thought of waiting on a long line after work to fill out a five-minute ballot. Not only that, but depending on the polling location, machines are very likely to either stop working or crash down in the middle of the process. And at that point, you are just about ready to leave the line and head back home.
In East Flatbush in Brooklyn, three out of the five ballot machines in one polling center stopped working. People became frustrated and left the line without casting their ballot.
And what about adults with very young children? Not everyone can afford a babysitter or bring their child with them to the polling station to stay for a long period of time. So this is also a factor in why some people choose not to deal with the headache of voting.
If Election Day was a national holiday, people would be able to vote at appropriate times that work for their schedule. It may even increase interest in politics among the voting-eligible audience because voting wouldn’t be seen as a hassle.
On Nov. 6, I stood on the line for over two hours to vote. I had morning classes with no breaks in between, and then I had to go to my on-campus job from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Polls close by 9 p.m. and my job is right next door to the polling stations. So I could see how long the line was. The line wrapped at least four times around the perimeter of the ticket booth lobby.
My boss had told me to go to join the line and not to worry about my shift because he understood the importance of voting this year.
However, though I think it would benefit the country to have the elections as a national holiday, I don’t believe that it should be forced upon people. There are some countries that follow strict enforcement of voting, such as compulsory voting, which could cause more of a negative impact than positive. The negative side could be that people won’t vote because they’re interested, but because it’s forced on them.
According to the Pew Research Center, Chile faced a major plunge in its voter turnout after the country moved from compulsory to voluntary voting in 2012. Their presidential election percentage dropped from 87 percent in 2010 to 42 percent in 2013, after compulsory voting was removed.
That is a pretty dramatic fall, but I don’t believe that people should be forced to vote. But give people more opportunities to actually accomplish voting. Which would be possible if Election Day was a national holiday.
I had the opportunity to talk to and observe some people who were also waiting on the line with me.
Most of their complaints were the inconvenience of the day on which Election Day falls. It’s a Tuesday, which is still at the beginning of the week and people are still recovering from the weekend. The people I spoke with were mostly college students, who found it hard to find time during the day to vote and also make it to their class in time. The average college student doesn’t always have long breaks in between class.
These are issues that can be fixed if classes were canceled and people were either excused or let off early from work. By making Election Day a national holiday, we can push forward to a future with a higher voter turnout. And America definitely needs it more than ever.
Disclaimer: This is a blog post in which an opinion is established. We encourage our readers to reach their own conclusions based on reading several articles that support and refute an opinion. The opinions established in this article do not represent the beliefs or ideals held by the Stony Brook Independent.