LOS ANGELES - Election Day isn’t a national holiday in the United States, but some say it should be. Most states have laws in place to guarantee time for their employees to go to the polls, but there is currently no federal law that mandates time off for voting – at least not yet.
The calls to vote and story after story about low voter turnout aren’t new, but when compared with voter turnout numbers in other places around the world, the percentage of potential voters who actually cast a ballot in the U.S. may surprise you. According to the Pew Research Center, voter turnout in the United States trails that seen in most developed countries.
In fact, according to Pew Research data, less than 56 percent of the estimated voting age population in the United States voted in the 2016 presidential election. According to the Associated Press, turnout in 2014 was only about 36 percent, which is considered low even for a midterm.
The U.S. Census Bureau surveyed nonvoters about the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, among others, according to a story published Monday by Business Insider. The report says the most common reasons given by nonvoters who didn’t cast a ballot were that they were too busy, or had work schedule conflicts.
It would take an act of Congress to make Election Day a national holiday, something Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has set out to do.
Sanders has proposed a bill designating “Democracy Day” as a national election holiday, in an effort to make voting easier for Americans to do.
"In America, we should be celebrating our democracy and doing everything possible to make it easier for people to participate in the political process. Election Day should be a national holiday so that everyone has the time and opportunity to vote. While this would not be a cure-all, it would indicate a national commitment to create a more vibrant democracy," Sanders' website reads.
On the other hand, some argue voters already have ample options to vote that don’t involve showing up at the polls on Election Day. In 37 states where early voting is offered, Americans can vote in person before Election Day. In addition, 27 states and the District of Columbia allow voters to request absentee ballots without an excuse, allowing them to vote by mail.
If early voting totals are any indication, there could be higher turnout come Tuesday. As of Saturday, the Associated Press reported more than 30 million Americans had cast their ballots early, with at least 28 states having surpassed their 2014 early votes. For perspective, the early vote total in the 2014 midterms was 28.3 million, and over 83 million people voted in the election overall. Some states were even approaching their early voting turnout from the 2016 presidential election.