America is one of the only democracies that does not have election day as a national holiday. Being that election day is traditionally held on a Tuesday, which is in the middle of the work week, this creates an additional barrier to voting.
According to the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan research organization, 14% of registered voters claimed that, in the 2016 election, they were too busy or had conflicting schedules, which ultimately resulted in them not casting votes.
Elections were originally scheduled for Tuesdays due to America’s overwhelmingly agrarian population in the mid 1800s. Tuesdays were traditionally the most convenient day for farmers to travel to town to vote.
Obviously, that has changed. Now these elections fall in the middle of the week and many people can’t get time off to vote. This puts a lot of pressure on lower-income individuals who then have a harder time getting time off to go vote — especially because workers generally have to vote before or after their work shift, which is typically the busiest times at the polls.
Other democracies that have election day as a federal holiday allow for the day off from work to encourage voting. That being said, America is rather low on the scale of voter turnout compared to other countries, thus enhancing the argument that a national holiday could increase voter turnout.
One of the things that has changed in this election to encourage voting has been discussion about, and emphasis on, absentee ballots. These, along with early in person voting, have created an atmosphere primed for voters to show up.
Minnesota, where voters can register as late as election day, is one of the states that traditionally leads the country in voter turnout. The Midwest has, for a long time, held the notion that voters really do put their voice toward the public’s best interest, and that voting is the best way to be involved in our civic government.
This week will be rife with conversations about the election and the inevitable drama that will ensue. While I encourage everyone to go vote and exercise your right as an American, I also encourage everyone to talk to those around you to make sure they vote as well.
While it may not be a holiday, Election Day is one of the best ways for us to make changes in our country, set our own agenda, and try to unite toward a more prosperous future.