The idea of making elections more accessible is a widely agreed-upon stance by more liberal Americans, even ones who are mostly moderate. The basic idea is that people have a right to make their voices heard and there should be fewer barriers between the people and the polls. Where that united stance breaks down is in discussions of how to make that happen. In particular, a major push by some people is to make Election Day a National Holiday. This is a measure that I do not agree with.
To explain my opposition, I’d like to take a moment to examine what this measure is trying to achieve. Many people are working multiple jobs and/or jobs with long hours. Many of these people don’t have the flexibility in their schedules to take the time away from work to go to the polls. The thought is if businesses are closed that day, these people will be off work and can go to the polls uninterrupted.
The problem comes in the execution of the measure. Most of the people who are struggling to get out of work are in industries such as retail, food service, entertainment, and other similar industries. These industries tend to have a large number of either unskilled or low skill workers that they pay low amounts so the workers either take long hours or get multiple jobs.
These same industries also tend to not close for National Holidays. In fact, for many of them, National Holidays turn into their busy days and they schedule more staff to work on those days. I can speak from personal experience that when I worked as a lifeguard, I never got holidays off and we were usually the most crowded on those days. I’ve witnessed similar things happening from an outside perspective in many other similar businesses.
Instead, the kinds of jobs that typically get National Holidays off are usually white-collar jobs. They are the kinds of jobs where everyone is working very regular hours on a set schedule and no one tries to conduct any sort of business outside of normal business hours. People working these jobs are typically not struggling to get to the polls because with their set schedule and limited hours they have an easy time going before or after work.
I am concerned that pushing for Election Day to be a National Holiday will be a mistake. It will spend time, effort, and political capital to push the measure through. This is time, effort, and political capital that could be better spent on measures that will have a greater effect. I’m not saying people should vote against it if it comes to a vote, but I don’t think it’s worth bringing to a vote and I’m concerned that if it does get passed people will reduce efforts elsewhere because they feel like a goal has been accomplished.
Instead, I propose a different measure to be the main push. Early voting has enabled many people to access the polls on days convenient for them and reduces the crowds present on Election Day itself. However, these early voting measures are applied inconsistently and some states make them prohibitively difficult to access. I think there should be a broad push to turn election day into election week and make it the standard that all polls are open for a full week closing at “Election Day” itself. This will allow people the opportunity to access the polls on whatever day in the week is most convenient for them (not everyone has their weekend on the weekend). The length of time could be expanded further, but I think a week is a proposition that is practical to make happen nationwide.