Make Election Day A Holiday!

The Commonwealth of Virginia has seen its voter registration rolls increase by ten percent this year, the largest single-year increase in memory. And, a new report worries that the state may not be ready to handle all these newcomers on election. Recent reports about fraudulent registrations only make the picture more confusing and alarming.

It is difficult to be too histrionic about the importance of getting elections right: They are the basis of our entire democracy. So, worry about having enough voting machines, voter fraud, and the like are important worries. At a time when all levels of government are tightening their belts, it is important not to skimp on the budget for a sufficient number of voting machines and staff to process the expected large turnout.


There is one reform that we should enact that costs nothing. Election Day should be a federal holiday. If people working two jobs see a two hour wait at the polls, they are not going to be able to vote. Students with a full course load and a part-time job don’t have time wait in the long lines we witnessed in college towns like Columbus, Ohio last year. Making the day a holiday would make it easier for these historically under-represented voters to exercise their most basic right of citizenship.

In the small town where I grew up, voter fraud was never much of a problem. Everyone knew everyone else although in my case that was doubly true because my mother was the registrar of voters and, before her, my grandmother was the registrar of voters. But, in large, expanding precincts, it is difficult to know who might be trying to commit voter fraud. Whoever is elected on November 4, should make sure that some money is set aside to help protect the integrity of the franchise.

Elections matter and as we saw in Florida in 2000, we need to plan ahead because every vote really does count.

Michael Sean Winters


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10 years 6 months ago
With respect, Mr. Winters’ posting appears to be little more then a tired reworking of a public employee union talking point memo rather then a serious suggestion. For starters, there is no evidence presented on how part time workers for private companies would somehow gain time to vote during the 14- 16 hours the polls are opened in most states. As for the lamented college students (would they wait 2 hours without complaint for tickets to an Ohio State football game?), it is fair to assume that the line was much shorter at 6 am or 7 am in those districts for those who chose to wake up early and vote when the polls opened. Beyond this, his proposal is a not even a solution if we really require more workers at the polls to make things go smoother. Mr. Winters says that giving every federal employee another paid holiday “costs nothing”. At a minimum, every worker who must work for reasons of public safety would immediately collect double time holiday pay in addition to collecting a full day’s paid holiday. The remaining workers who do not come to work would receive full pay and would instead be available to their union for electioneering activities on Election Day. This is the normal course of business in my home state of New Jersey. And only a hardened skeptic would assert that every federal worker adds so little value that they could all not come to work for a day and it would not impact costs or efficiency of government. A possible limited cost solution would be to make Election Day a regular work day for government workers and then to scale back “non essential” government departments on those days. Those same workers from scaled back departments would then be trained and reassigned that day to work at polls, assist with voter machine repairs, etc or other non partisan tasks necessary to insure a fair and efficient election. There would be some expenses in cross training, but such training almost always pays back in improved employee productivity.
10 years 6 months ago
This is an excellent idea, although I'm not sure whether it would address the whole problem. I live in Washington, DC, and "federal holidays" (other than Christmas, New Years Day, and Thanksgiving) are generally observed only by the Federal government - most businesses (particularly retail stores) and some schools still operate with normal hours. Nevertheless, it is a great idea, and we should go for it!
10 years 5 months ago
Respect for Life A political candidate’s position on abortion has become the de facto litmus test of morality, and of respect for life. However, the data show that these also have a profound effect on life. Consider the matter of health care. For a study of life expectancy in the United States published in PLoS Medicine in 2006, Harvard Professor Christopher Murray analyzed 8 years of census and health statistics data. He found an astonishing 35 year gap - in life expectancy based on county of residence, income, and other social factors. In my home county, Fairfax Virginia, life expectancy is among the top ten in the US ­ about 81 years. Life expectancy in counties at the bottom is only 46 years, shorter than that in many developing countries! This isn’t a new finding - many other studies found similar results. There are several reasons for premature death, but socioeconomic status and access to health care are the heavyweights. Thus, health care in particular, as well as many other policy differences between the political parties can have as profound an influence on life as the death penalty or abortion. Clearly, the moral justification for voting cannot be based on a single issue. As a Catholic, I've been opposed to abortion all my life, and efforts to reduce abortions must continue. However, the pro-life concept must encompass all causes of death, not only abortion. The positions the Democratic Party has held with respect to universal health care, taxation, unemployment, war and torture, all of which have life-or-death consequences, are more consistently pro-life than those of the Republicans. My conscience requires that I vote for Barack Obama, and I will do so with great enthusiasm and hope. Peter Kaufmann, Ph.D. Past President, Society of Behavioral Medicine Secretary, International Society of Behavioral Medicine The views expressed above are not necessarily those of the SBM or ISBM.


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