The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the position of ZU Media or APU
Australia does it… should we?
Time reported the 2020 election had a record-breaking voter turnout compared to past years. Around 160 million people voted in this election — about two-thirds of eligible voters showed up. This record is a sign of change, but the election process could have been smoother.
Throughout history, there have been various attempts to make a “National Voting Day” as an official holiday to help improve voter turnout but to no avail.
Australia is one example of a country that has a national voting day. They also run under a Compulsory voting system where each citizen is required to vote. This is obviously different from America’s Democratic system, but there are still some gleanings to be had. In Australia, an entire day is dedicated to voting, a formal holiday with a day off of work.
Other countries besides Australia have hopped onto the idea of having a national voting day (some with required participation and some not). Pew Research conducted a report on voting participation, and the U.S was ranked at 32 out of 47 countries. The U.S has an average 55.72% voter turnout with 86.80% percent of eligible voters.
However, there are legislative hurdles in the way of establishing a national voting holiday. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed a bill to formally make a “Democracy Day” in America. Sanders claims that democracy should be celebrated, and that a Democracy Day would “make it easier for people to participate in the political process.” Sanders also believes that this bill would by no means be a cure-all for civic participation but merely a stepping stone.
If Election Day was a national holiday, people would have more time to participate in the entire voting process. Having the day off of work would free up time to hit the polling booths and research more on local and national politics. In the 2020 election, some companies took it upon themselves to give employees the day off, and the possibility of this becoming the new norm is promising. In Australia, Election Day is not only for voting, but for hosting barbeques for fellowship with neighbors.
There has been a huge focus on the youth and their political activism in 2020. If there was a national election day, younger generations might be more motivated to continue the momentum of political involvement past the 2020 election. Even before reaching voting age, children will see the passion and involvement of their community and be more likely to mirror those around them as they get older.
Britannica highlights both the pros and cons to an official Election Day holiday. The main positive of a national holiday is higher voter turnout and a smoother election process without delayed results. The main mantra that supporters of a national holiday is, “voting should be a celebration, not a chore.”
Some of the negatives mentioned is that lower class families would lose a day of work and income. For this reason, nonsupporters of the bill believe that the answer is through individual company choices and state laws. The movement Make Time to Vote is one example of companies already choosing to give employees the option to take the day off and vote.
2020 was a record for voter turnout, hopefully setting the new standard for our civic duty. A voting holiday such as “Democracy Day” would not be a perfect solution to fix the gap between eligible voters and voter turnout, but there is a possibility it could ignite a new sense of involvement in democracy, which we desperately need.