Election Day Should Be a Paid Holiday, One Group Argues
For many Americans, the same relatable story seems to play out every Election Day: It’s the end of a long workday, and you’re too busy picking up the kids, running errands, or trying to figure out what’s for dinner to head to the polls—so you don't cast your vote.
According to a Pew Research Center poll, 35 percent of registered nonvoters said they were too busy with work or school conflicts to vote.
That’s why in June, Seattle resident Noah Fradin launched the “Take Tuesday” campaign, which urges companies to include Election Day on their list of paid holidays so employees—particularly those who rely on an hourly wage—have more time to vote without worrying about losing a chunk of their paycheck.
“I think it’s a difficult political issue because it affects who votes,” Fradin, 23, wrote in an email to TakePart. “Even if one more person is able to more easily have their voice heard as a result of this campaign, that’s pretty amazing.”
According to Fradin, the campaign will remain nonpartisan because national leaders across the political spectrum, including President Obama, have supported the idea of treating Election Day as a national paid holiday.
More than 100 companies nationwide have agreed to give their employees paid time off. Many of the companies the campaign has been working with have salaried workers, but Fradin hopes to expand the initiative to include more hourly workers, who need the paid time the most. According to Fradin, many companies promote voting by rewarding employees who bring in an “I Voted” sticker with cookies or other small rewards.
“Many of our early launch partners, including Casper, Thrillist Media, and DataXu, have been incredibly supportive in not only giving their employees the day off, but also helping to promote the cause beyond their own companies,” Fradin wrote.
Fradin’s goal is to expand to enough companies that national voting numbers start to rise because fewer people will feel strapped for time. He added that giving employees time off can also help reduce the long lines that occur at the beginning and end of Election Day, because employees can take time to vote at other times of day.
“We also hope to show that companies are capable of giving their employees the time off to vote,” Fradin wrote. “There are a lot of people and organizations trying to make Election Day an official national holiday through political channels. By showing that companies are not only capable but willing to give the day off on Election Day, we hope to support those efforts as well.”
There is no legislation to make Election Day a national holiday, but Fradin hopes to make changes on the ground, starting with individual companies.
“There are a lot of organizations who have been working hard for a while to get this done through political channels, and they’ve made a lot of progress. However, as of now there is no far-reaching legislative solution in place for the 2016 election, and so at least for this election, it’s time for companies and individuals to take it into their own hands,” Fradin wrote. “Most companies we’ve talked with have been incredibly receptive and supportive. Asking companies to give their employees the time to vote on their own is something that can be done right now and have an impact ahead of the 2016 election.”
Fradin explained that the U.S. didn’t set a uniform day for presidential elections until 1845. Tuesday became the day of choice because people often needed a day to travel to the town center, and no one wanted it to conflict with the Sabbath on Sundays or market day, which was typically on Wednesday. According to Fradin, while certain groups of people, including women, were excluded, politicians back then got one thing right: They chose a day that would make it easiest for people to vote, one that didn’t conflict with the average schedule.
“We’ve kept the tradition of voting on a Tuesday even though it’s now a workday that doesn’t have the same benefits it used to have of fitting nicely into everyone’s schedules,” he wrote.
Some critics have dismissed campaigns like “Take Tuesday,” citing the existing absentee ballot.
“There are a lot of ways people have proposed to make our elections more inclusive and easier to participate in,” Fradin wrote. “At the end of the day, we should be making it easier for people to have their voices heard, not harder. Giving employees time to vote makes it easier. Historically, it is necessary.”
Overall, however, responses to “Take Tuesday” have been positive.
“People have been incredibly receptive to the idea of giving their employees the day off, and we’re really excited about that,” Fradin wrote. “Others have also started to reach out to companies on their own, and we’re excited by how quickly the movement is growing.”