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Foss: Voting should be a holiday

Foss: Voting should be a holiday

The reason is simple: Making Election Day a holiday will make it easier for people to vote.
Foss: Voting should be a holiday
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

Today should be a holiday. 

And the reason is simple: Making Election Day a holiday will make it easier for people to vote, thus maximizing voter turnout.

Freed from the obligation to go to work, people will head to the polls and participate in our most treasured democratic ritual. 

"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," Beau C. Tremitiere, editor-in-chief of the Northwestern University Law Review, wrote two years ago.  "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." 

I agree wholeheartedly with all of this, but I'd support making Election Day a national holiday even if there weren't a whole host of practical reasons for doing so. 

Voting is a fundamental, near-sacred right, and we should treat it as such. 

Right now, our country approaches voting as if it's just another errand we want people to squeeze in on a busy weekday. 

If we want Americans to regard voting with reverence and a sense of duty, this needs to change -- and it should change regardless of whether it boosts voter turnout or not. 

It should change because it's the right thing to do, and it will strengthen our democracy at a time when it needs strengthening. 

It's no secret that voter turnout in the U.S. is depressingly anemic, especially when compared with other developed countries. 

In 2016, just 55 percent of the voting age population voted, despite it being a presidential election year, when turnout is typically high. 

I don't know what percentage of eligible Americans will vote today, and I wouldn't be surprised if turnout is higher than it was for the midterm elections four years ago. 

But I won't be surprised if we learn that a shockingly large number of Americans opted to sit this election out, too. 

Making Election Day a national holiday wouldn't exactly be reinventing the wheel. 

Lots of other countries consider Election Day a national holiday or hold elections on a Saturday or Sunday. Countries that vote on the weekend include Australia, France, Brazil and Japan.

Here in New York, state election law guarantees time off to vote in certain cases. 

Employees who lack sufficient time outside of their working hours to vote may take off up to two hours at the beginning or end of their shift to do so. Workers who wish to take advantage of this law must notify their employer between 10 and two days before Election Day. 

I love Election Day, and I've never found it especially difficult to vote. 

I have a flexible job and my polling place is well staffed and close to my home. 

But that's not the reality for everyone.

Some will argue that we already have an abundance of federal holidays in the fall, and while I'm not opposed to having more holidays, I'd propose holding Election Day on either Columbus Day or Veterans Day. 

Making Election Day a national holiday is an idea whose time has come. 

But it hasn't happened yet and, until it does, I'll keep making the time to vote. 

You should, too. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.                

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