Make Election Day A Federal Holiday
Make Election Day A Federal Holiday

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%).

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

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.

Brook­ings is among the orga­ni­za­tions that sup­ports the idea.

“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?”

Joe McCarthy of Glob­al Cit­i­zen cites five rea­sons for adopt­ing the idea:

  1. It would give peo­ple time to vote
  2. It would serve as a cru­cial reminder to voters
  3. It would let peo­ple carpool
  4. It would allow more peo­ple to vol­un­teer dur­ing the day
  5. 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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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