When it comes to voting, America is weird. Most of the developed world heads to the polls on a non-working day. It's only because 19th century American farmers needed a full day to get to their polling places and didn't want to travel on the Sabbath that we ended up voting for our next president on a Tuesday.
Given that we no longer travel to vote by horse and buggy, is it time we joined the rest of the world in making Election Day a holiday, so it's wildly easier for working people to vote? A rising chorus of experts and businesses is arguing yes.
The move to either make Election Day a national holiday or, failing that, to persuade businesses to give their people the day off has been building for years. Back in 2016 companies like Spotify, SurveyMonkey, and Wikimedia gave their employees time off to do their democratic duty, and a chorus of business leaders urged other firms to do the same.
At least 383 companies, with more than two million workers in 50 states, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Target Corp., Best Buy Co. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., have signed on to the Time to Vote initiative. Organizers said they aim to enlist 1,000 companies by November, more than double the number that participated in a similar turnout drive in the 2018 midterm elections.
Why is this change necessary? As a pair of Stanford political scientists explained in a Washington Post op-ed, the answer is all of two words: voter turnout. America's is way lower than in any other advanced democracy. Only about a third of the people who are eligible to vote in America actually do so.
"There are many reasons so few Americans vote, but among them is that the United States is one of the few countries that holds elections on a workday. Finding time to vote during a workday imposes a significant burden that falls disproportionately on workers and students, who frequently cite scheduling conflicts with work or school as their reason for not voting," they explain.
That's obviously unfair and harmful to the long-term health and legitimacy of the democracy we all rely on for our prosperity. Which is why so many experts and business leaders are calling for companies to dig deep into their stores of patriotism, take the hit of a single day of productivity, and give their people time off to get to the polls.
Are you giving your team time off to vote this November? Should you?