I got into a Twitter fight today with someone who said that election day should be a public holiday, claiming this would encourage more participation. The fight erupted because he refused to provide any evidence for this claim, and he didn’t care for the evidence against the idea that I wanted to discuss. He dismissed me and any discussion of evidence in such a rude manner I thought for a moment I was dealing with Donald Trump or Christie Clark. Anyway it persuaded me to write this short piece.
Before I say anything else, let me say that I can see a real benefit in changing our election dates to the weekend, when a lot more people are free from work. No problem with that, and I would encourage such a change. However, there are a lot of problems with having a weekday election that is a public holiday.
- First, a lot of families would not be happy with losing a day’s pay (or, if it were to be a statutory holiday, a lot of small businesses would be outraged at having to pay for another day off);
- Second, getting to the voting booth would be more complicated and difficult because transit would be on a reduced holiday schedule. Again, this would harm lower income folks more than those who can afford to drive;
- Third, with schools closed for the holiday, some families (first responders, transit folks, medical workers, utility maintainers, those with idiot employers etc etc) would still have to work and thus would incur significant additional childcare costs;
- Fourth, why should those who have to work on that day be inconvenienced in their franchise more than the rest of us?
As it stands, the law obliges employers to give employees substantial time off to vote on election day. In addition, the number of advance polling dates and methods, and polling times have increased greatly over the years; and parties and volunteer groups work hard to assist with mobility issues. To claim that anyone these days is blocked from voting (due to times and dates and places etc) is simply wrong.
If we really have to continue with this faux democracy, I suggest we keep enhancing the opportunities to vote, including electronic voting, work on moving election day to the weekend, and not bother with an inconvenient holiday.