Voting is a privilege that not enough Americans realize they have. Voter turnout for the 2016 Presidential Election was only 54.7%. With just over half of our nation heading to the polls come Election Day, the change to make Election Day a national holiday must be implemented in order to not only increase voter participation, but also to ingrain the very concept of democracy into the American people.
Voter turnout for congressional elections is even lower than general elections. On average, only 40% of eligible voters vote in their congressional elections, with some districts experiencing voter turnout as low as 26%. Some people simply don’t care about voting, but others find themselves unable to vote on Election Day thanks to restrictions like work and business.
The United States continues to fall behind other developed countries when it comes to voter turnout. According to Pew Research, 55.7% of the voting-age population voted in 2016. This number is substantially lower than other developed countries. In fact, a survey found that the United States ranked 139 out of 172 countries when it comes to voter turnout. Many of the countries ranked above the United States are industrialized nations such as South Korea, Germany, and France.
Even though the countries that outdo the United States when it comes to voter participation have different methods of electing officials, many nations hold one thing in common: they have the day off on Election Day. Countries like France, Germany, and India all recognize Election Day as a national holiday or hold elections on the weekend in order to increase voter turnout.
Not only would making Election Day a federal holiday increase voter turnout among Americans, which is something that politicians and citizens in general complain about often, but it would also ignite a more patriotic spirit amongst the American people. When people do not need to worry about going into work on Election Day, they are both more apt to vote and more informed about voting by not having to worry about other work-related commitments on Election Day. Beau C. Tremitiere, editor-in-chief of the Northwestern University Law Review puts in well:
“The demands of school and work schedules keep millions of Americans, especially those with children or long commutes, from ever getting to their polling stations. Countless other students and workers who do manage to cast their ballots would love to be even more involved in the process — whether by driving elderly neighbors to the polls, helping illiterate voters understand their ballots, or serving as a poll watcher to deter foul play — but can’t afford to skip class or take off a shift.”
As an informed American who is extremely excited to vote for the first time in the 2018 Midterm Elections, I am disappointed that a country which places so much importance on democratic ideals falls so short when it comes to voter turnout. Voting is a right that not everyone possesses across the world. Making Election Day a national holiday would bring many more people to the polls while at the same time showing off the values that the United States stands for regarding democracy.