Voting in America must work for everyone

Election Day is approaching sooner than we might think. On Nov. 3, Americans across the country
will be making their way to polling stations to cast their ballots. Well, some Americans.

The fact is, too many Americans don’t vote. In 2016, a mere 55.4% of the voting age population cast ballots, according to a CNN study. For an election carrying as much weight as the 2016 election did, that number is sad. It’s the lowest since 1996, when 53.5% voted.

It’s important to put American voting percentages into context.

The United States trails just about every other country in voter turnout. In France’s last election,
for example, nearly 68% of eligible voters submitted ballots, according to the New York Times. In Mexico, 65% turned out. In Australia, a whopping 79% of the population cast their votes. The highest voter turnout in the United States ever was 81.8%, in 1876, but hasn’t surpassed 60% since the 1968 election.

Why is the United States so far from the rest of the pack in voter turnout? There are a number of reasons—they don’t think their vote matters, they encounter registration problems—but one looms far larger than others. Tuesday.

Election Day has been held on a Tuesday in the United States since the 1840s. Back then, voting was not available everywhere, and many had to travel a long way just to cast their ballots. Tuesday was chosen so people could begin their travels on a Monday, avoiding travel on the Sunday Sabbath.

Tuesday may have made sense back then, but times have changed. For many Americans, it’s not so much an issue of apathy, but of fatigue. Many simply don’t have the time to vote on a work day. After a long day, people don’t want to wait in potentially long lines at the polls. Often, the lines aren’t even that long. In 2016, it only took an average of 14 minutes to vote, according to The Washington Post.

Some Americans work multiple jobs to make ends meet. They don’t have time to vote. They could skip their shift, but they put their job on the line.

Pretty much every other country votes on the weekend. Iceland? Saturday. France? Sunday. Costa Rica? Sunday.

The fact of the matter is that more people need to vote. How can the winner of an election be a true representation of what America wants?

The best way of addressing this issue would be to create a federal holiday for Election Day. Then, Americans who might not have the time to vote because of their jobs will have the time.

A handful of states have already implemented a holiday for select employees. 13 states give their government workers the day off, according to Pew Research.

In New York and California, government employees can leave to vote and can’t be docked pay. Even some employers have taken it upon themselves to allow their employees to vote. Patagonia, for example, will give their workers paid time off to vote this November.

Of course, anything that increases turnout by making it easier to vote can be seen as partisan because it tends to favor Democrats. America’s working class is largely comprised of Democrats, and their newfound time to vote would undoubtedly increase the Democratic candidate’s chances of winning.

Here’s the bottom line: The right to vote is something that we all take for granted. It isn’t a right in many places. It’s something that people had to fight for. The fact that barely half of us exercise that right is appalling.

We need a federal holiday that allows Americans to take the day off. Everyone has the right to vote.