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Editorial: Election Day Should Be A National Holiday

This story was written by Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan

Universal suffrage refers to the right to vote for all adults regardless of ethnicity, sex, and economic status; however, a myriad of Americans every election season are limited in their access to the polls. Many are forced to choose between exercising their right to vote and putting food on the table. A steady paycheck takes precedence over taking time off to vote. Every election cycle, countless Americans use the excuse "I didn't have the time" when asked why they failed to vote. If a lack of time is a common obstacle to voting, the solution seems simple enough: Election Day should be a national holiday.

Pundits and public officials alike complain of the low voter turnout each election year. Voter apathy is a serious problem in this country. If the government wants to increase public interest in the fundamental democratic freedom of voting, then Congress should take the appropriate steps to make Election Day a national holiday. An entire day devoted to the right to vote could change the public's perception of voting as a hassle or burden into something to be proud of and worthy of people's time. This concept isn't new; many other countries have national holidays on their election days.

A national holiday provides us with more than just free time. Growing up, our teachers paid particular attention to national holidays. Plays, papers, and presentations are assigned by our teachers in order to educate the youth of America about the significance behind our national holidays. Children are taught to celebrate why they don't have to attend school, not just to relish in a three-day weekend. Promoting the importance of voting during our youth may go a long way to cure voter apathy in younger generations. Moreover, an Election Day holiday would allow parents to take their children with them to the polls, reinforcing the importance that their teachers placed on the process.

A government holiday would also free up voting stations in government buildings, such as schools, for longer periods of time, increasing voter access. In theory, with more Americans off work, voting stations would be better staffed on Election Day, thus increasing efficiency. An election holiday may decrease the need for early voting, allowing resources to be spent on increasing the number of voting stations and volunteers on Election Day.

Some advocates of an election holiday have suggested merging Veteran's Day and Election Day into a common holiday during election years. We continually praise our nation's soldiers for giving their lives for our freedom - which would include the right to vote. Perhaps more Americans would take a moment to realize the importance of their right to vote if it was linked with honoring our nation's heroes.

For those that believe a merger would diminish the significance of Veteran's Day and Election Day, there are superfluous holidays that can be recalled. Columbus Day is based on a myth; moreover, it's a controversial holiday that celebrates European dominance over the American Indian population. A holiday to commemorate our right to vote is a far superior reason to close government offices.

Many of us spend an entire afternoon and day watching the election coverage. We have spent countless hours watching debates, listening to pundits, and being bombarded with TV ads. An Election Day holiday would be the culmination of the entire arduous process of an election year. Certainly the American people deserve a holiday after surviving an presidential-election process that now takes almost two years to complete.

As Americans, we gather all over the country in large parties to celebrate the Super Bowl. Even the commercials are subject to great fanfare and are usually the topic of water-cooler conversations on Monday morning.It's time we, as Americans, treat the right to vote and Election Day with the same exuberance.

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