Column: Election day must be made a national holiday

Making voting a national holiday will allow larger numbers of workers and students to vote (Internet Photo)

Making voting a national holiday will allow larger numbers of workers and students to vote (Internet Photo)

Eric Wong, Editor-In-Chief

It’s no lie that, in America, one of the most cherished and celebrated liberties is the freedom of expression. Citizens are allowed to say almost anything they want and believe in what they want. Many may not see it this way, but voting is another form of expression in that you are voicing formally who you believe is more fit to hold office. Many Americans had to endure hardships or even die just so we all can have the right to vote today.

However, if voting is so vital to this country, why do only half of those eligible to vote actually do so? According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, 62.3% of all people who were voting age actually voted in 2008. This number dipped more in 2012 to 57.5%. In fact, throughout the late 20th and early 21st century, voter turnout has consistently remained near 50%.

With these statistics in mind, the reason why many citizens do not vote is even more shocking. In a survey conducted by the Washington Post during the midterm elections of 2014, which had the lowest midterm voter turnout in years, the most popular reason why people of voting age did not vote was because they were too busy. Because the elections always fall on a Tuesday in November, “busy” more than likely meant work or school for the thousands of employees and students in America who were deprived of a day off to vote.

It is unacceptable that there are hundreds of thousands of people who will not be able to vote and it’s simply because they are unable to get off of work or school. Although some employers and schools allow their students or employees to take time off to vote, oftentimes the students and employees will not capitalize on this opportunity to not fall behind on work. Those trying to vote before or after work/school as an alternative will also be discouraged by the fact that those are usually peak hours at the polls, which could potentially mean fighting long lines. If you have work or school on election day, then, quite simply, the cards are stacked against you when trying to vote.

There is an easy solution to fixing low voter turnout. We need to either move Election Day to the weekend or, better yet, make it a national holiday to ensure that educational or occupational obligations do not hold anyone back from having their voices heard at the ballots. It may be easy to say that this idea would only hurt businesses and schools by causing them to fall behind by robbing them of a day, but many other days in the year are sacrificed for other holidays. If days off are given for veterans and the American workforce, surely one should be given for voting.

In addition to increasing voting numbers at the poll, specific demographics are given a chance to have more of a significance in deciding who takes office. Working class Americans, previously unable to take even a couple of hours off, would get the chance to elect a candidate who would advance their cause. In addition, young high school voters can finally have their voices heard.

If America wants to practice democracy, then it needs to stop carrying out half measures. Everyone, including those who are too busy or preoccupied, should be given an opportunity to vote.