Today is General Election Day 2022… the deadline to return ballots in the one hundred and eighteenth general election to be held for Congress in the history of the United States of America. Despite its importance to the the country’s republican system of government, it is not a federal holiday like Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day, or Martin Luther King Jr. Day are.
Our research has found that a majority of Washington voters think it should be, however. In our most recent statewide poll, conducted last month by Public Policy Polling for NPI, 56% of likely 2022 voters surveyed said they supported making Election Day a federal holiday, while 27% were opposed. 16% were not sure.
45% of those surveyed were strongly supportive, indicating significant enthusiasm for the idea, which has been discussed and debated over the years but not acted upon by Congress. The most recent federal holiday to be added to the nation’s calendar is Juneteenth, which has long been celebrated at the local and state levels, but was not a federal holiday. That changed last year thanks to the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act signed by President Joe Biden.
Here’s the text of the question we asked and the responses we received:
QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose making General Election Day in even-numbered years a federal holiday?
- Support: 56%
- Strongly support: 45%
- Somewhat support: 11%
- Oppose: 27%
- Somewhat oppose: 9%
- Strongly oppose: 18%
- Not sure: 16%
Our survey of 782 likely 2022 Washington State midterm voters was in the field from Wednesday, October 19th through Thursday, October 20th. The survey was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5% at the 95% confidence interval.
It utilizes a blended methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines (50%) and text message answers from cell phone only respondents (50%).
Interestingly, making Election Day a federal holiday is one of the electoral reform concepts supported by West Virginia’s mercurial United States Senator Joe Manchin, who has frustratingly withheld his support for other ideas for strengthening our democracy that his Senate Democratic colleagues back.
Proponents of making Election Day a federal holiday believe it would allow more Americans to dedicate time to voting and participating in civic life. If it were a paid federal holiday, it would enable the federal government (one of the country’s largest employers) to set a good example for private employers to follow, though the United States Postal Service’s workforce would still need to come into work in order to ensure returned ballots could be processed through the postal system.
“Many other democracies make election day a holiday and they all have higher voter turnout than we do,” William G. Gale and Darrell M. West wrote last year.
“For example, Australia typically has a turnout in the 90 percent or more range, and other nations such as Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Mexico achieve very high turnout via universal voting and time off for voting.”
Gale and West suggest moving Veterans Day to coincide with Election Day to avoid adding a new federal holiday to the calendar.
“Veteran’s Day typically is about one week after Election Day so this would involve little disruption in terms of job schedules and monthly routines. Furthermore, making this small shift would celebrate the purpose and sacrifice of our fighting forces. After all, what do our veterans fight for, if not for democracy itself?”
- It would give people time to vote
- It would serve as a crucial reminder to voters
- It would let people carpool
- It would allow more people to volunteer during the day
- It would turn voting into a celebration
Many Americans are apparently unaware that Election Day is not a federal holiday.
A web search for “Make Election Day a federal holiday” on Google and Bing yielded a number of news articles that pose and answer the question Is Election Day a federal holiday? Like this one from USAToday. Or this one from Tegna. Or this one from NBC Chicago. Or this one from Newsweek (dating back to 2020).
Several socially and environmentally conscious businesses have been leaders in closing or partially closing on Election Day so that their employees can participate in U.S. democracy. REI delays the opening of its stores so employees can go and vote. Patagonia doesn’t open at all, preferring to give employees paid time off so they can serve as poll workers or participate in campaigns.
It might surprise Washingtonians and Oregonians to learn that twenty-four states already provide for paid time off to vote. That is nearly half the country.
USAToday published an article about it yesterday, noting: “There are some stipulations, such as giving an advanced notice, when your shift is scheduled in relation to when polls are open and providing proof of voting to an employer. Only a certain amount of hours are paid to employees.”
Additionally, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia observe Election Day as a legal holiday and close most of their state offices.
That’s a total of thirteen states that already have laws providing for Election Day as a holiday, including one in the greater Pacific Northwest (Montana).
Washington and Oregon are not among the states that designate Election Day as a holiday and don’t provide for paid time off. However, on the other side of the ledger, a national study found that Washington and Oregon were the easiest states to vote in. Voters here get three weeks in which to cast a ballot, and there are no schemes in place to disenfranchise voters like photo ID or significantly understaffed and under-resourced polling places with massively long lines.
Congressional Democrats have embraced making Election Day a federal holiday and offered legislation to make it happen, but Republicans have stubbornly refused to follow suit. They should reconsider their knee jerk opposition, especially considering their base’s increasing obsession with Election Day voting.
With today being Election Day, it’s important for Pacific Northwesterners to remember that ballots need to be returned to a drop box by 8 PM Pacific Time or to a post office by the last outgoing collection time.