Make Election Day a holiday

Published 2:54 pm Thursday, November 12, 2015

Last Tuesday, 33 percent of registered voters in Prince Edward County traveled to a polling place and cast their votes, according to The Herald. While Prince Edward County’s turnout was slightly lower than normal, reports indicate it was greater than the state’s average.

Political pundits around the Commonwealth are opining on the historic low turnout. Their reasons include single-candidate races, gerrymandered districts, declining health among the baby boomers generation and apathy (specifically among millennials).

While I agree that all of those variables affect voter turnout, there’s another issue that we often ignore: Election Day.

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As I researched voter turnout globally, I learned that other countries have found innovative and sometimes punitive methods to increase voter turnout. For the record, I am vehemently against any punitive method, such as fining people for not voting.

In 2013, The Weekend Voting Act (HR 1641) was reintroduced by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel. Israel said, “Voting should be easy and accessible … By moving Election Day from a single day in the middle of the work week to a full weekend, we are encouraging more working Americans to participate.”

The bill never garnered enough support to be enacted.

The second option would be to make Election Day a national holiday. While some employers would scoff at the idea, there’s an easy fix: eliminating Columbus Day.

In short, almost everything that we were taught as children about Christopher Columbus is a lie. He didn’t discover America; people were already here. He didn’t prove that the earth was not flat. The American Indian Movement (AIM) said “that to celebrate the legacy of this murderer is an affront to all Indian peoples and others who truly understand this history.”

One of the ways that we can increase participation is to make Election Day more accessible to all Americans. Why not replace Columbus Day with Election Day? It seems to be a win-win for all.

Taikein Cooper is a native of Farmville and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in public policy analysis. His email address is