Should Election Day Be A National Holiday?

October 24th, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

Would a day off to vote bring more people to the booths?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Would you be more likely to do your civic duty if there were a national holiday devoted to it?

That’s what actor Rainn Wilson (better known as Dwight Schrute in the hit show The Office) is proposing in a funny campaign to “Take Back Tuesday.” According to Entertainment Weekly, Wilson is collaborating with social media sites GOOD and SoulPancake to make Election Day a federal holiday, or simply hold it on the weekend. The idea, expressed via Wilson’s video of a 19th century sharecropper showing up to modern day polls, is that voting on a weekday inconveniently forces today’s employees to choose between work and voting.

The “Take Back Tuesday” PSA notes that Americans cast their ballots on Tuesdays for outdated historical reasons. When Election Day was fixed on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in 1872, it was to ensure that people traveling to vote wouldn’t miss church on Sunday. The Atlantic’s associate editor David Graham notes that the idea that voters shouldn’t have to work on Election Day crops up every four years; an Atlantic predecessor, Martin Wattenberg, made a case for it in 1998:

“Americans have become quite accustomed to Tuesday elections, just as they have to the nonmetric system for weights and measures and other artifacts of another time,” he writes. “It would be difficult to change this custom. Furthermore, there would probably be some resistance from religious minorities that observe the Sabbath on Saturday.” But voting on a Tuesday is difficult for people who work hourly jobs with low pay in urban centers, Graham says. Lines are long, they can’t afford to take time off, and few employers offer time off work for voting.

“Take Back Tuesday” is funny, but its basis is serious. Would making Election Day a national holiday ease the inconvenience of casting your vote, or does your office already give workers a break on the first Tuesday in November?