Ah, Election Day. The end of political commercials and telemarketers ringing your landline at all hours of the night — until the next election cycle, of course! Every candidate seems to have some kind of despicable past or horribly flawed policy, and you just cannot see yourself casting a vote in their favor. You ask yourself, “Is it really worth waiting in line to vote when I need to be somewhere else?”
This thought process has plagued American society over the last several decades. The voter turnout, defined as the percentage of age-eligible citizens who cast votes in an election, was roughly 60% in the 2016 presidential election; presidential elections typically yield a higher turnout than “off-year” elections. When two in five adults are not voting in a given election, it is difficult to say that its results reflect the will of the entire populace. Something must be done to modernize the process of U.S. elections. But what?
Several nations across the world (including Australia, Belgium, and Turkey) have established “compulsory voting” laws that require all citizens to vote in every election. Unsurprisingly, this increased voter turnout; however, turnout does not reach 100%, as most of these laws are not strictly enforced. Also, all countries with such legislation have a much smaller population than the U.S. Thus, attempting to enact a compulsory electoral system in America is a waste of time and money.
Although some citizens abstain from voting because they “don’t want to,” others fail to find the time necessary to cast a vote. Under the current format, general elections in the U.S. are always held on the first Tuesday in November, unless that day falls on Nov. 1.
The question of “why Tuesday?” baffles me. As of 2015, 83% of all employees worked on weekdays, while only 34% worked on weekends Clearly, Tuesday is not a day that many people have time to go to the polls. So why not make Election Day a federal holiday and level the playing field a bit?
In short, the process of creating a new federal holiday requires cooperation in Congress. I cannot envision a scenario in which a majority of Republicans vote in favor of establishing easier access to polling locations for these workers. According to Carter Wrenn, a Republican consultant from North Carolina, the party’s reasoning is strictly political. More Democratic voters are restricted by Tuesday elections than Republicans, so the federal holiday option would surely backfire on the GOP.
Also, federal holidays take a toll on American taxpayers. As of 1999, each holiday squandered $200 million of taxpayer money, so the idea of making another one is not feasible. Proposals to turn the Monday after the Super Bowl into a national holiday have failed for this reason.
Just as it would be easier to hold the Super Bowl on a Saturday night, moving Election Day to a Saturday or Sunday is the only practical solution I can offer. While congressional Republicans would certainly reject this proposal, I am also calling for the establishment of stronger voter identification laws to create a bipartisan compromise.
It is true that voter fraud is an overplayed issue in the U.S; however, such a developed and powerful nation certainly has the resources to ensure the security of its elections. No one should be able to vote illegally under any circumstances, and requiring voters to present identification at their polling location would decrease voter impersonation and eliminate the practice of double-voting.
Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you lie, it is clear that the next presidential election is going to be a big one. There will not be any major reforms in place for the 2020 election, but it is important for Congress to come together and address our inconvenient election system. Doing so should increase voter turnout and participation in government while restoring the integrity of our citizens.
Thumbnail photo from Element5 Digital from Unsplash.com
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Carson Swick is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.