We need to give all workers time off on Election Day
Updated: Jun 14, 2020
The United States is one of the most difficult democracies to vote in—out of the 32 OECD countries, we place a dismal 26th in voter turnout. Though this figure could be partially attributed to election fatigue or general disinterest and apathy, one probable reason stands out: in America, we always have to vote on a weekday. Why is that? Turns out, the religious agrarians of yesteryear didn’t allow travelling on Sundays. Commuting via horse-and-buggy meant if they left for the polls the day after, on Monday morning, they’d most likely get to the polling place late Monday night. So, we’re left with this archaic law that mandates we vote on Tuesdays.
In effect, this means many of us have to work and vote on the same day, especially if we’re in a state that has strict requirements for absentee voting. For the working class, this obviously poses a significant challenge. In 2016, 14% of non-voting Americans reported they did not vote because of a conflicting work schedule. The average from 2000 to 2012 was closer to 20%.
To fix this problem, The Time Off to Vote (TOTV) movement advocates for employers to grant employees paid time off during Election Day. TOTV is beginning to gain traction in the corporate world, as the percent of companies to adopt it as company-wide policy has increased from 37% to 44% in the past few years. However, 23 states still do not enforce TOTV as law, and others do not guarantee pay during time off.
In order to bring more people into the electorate, TOTV should be enacted nationally. TOTV particularly helps low-wage workers, who would often otherwise have to work through Election Day. This would reduce the wide gap in voting habits between working class and affluent Americans. Let’s modernize our voting system so it makes sense for most Americans, not for the farmer’s from centuries ago.