The time has now passed when classroom and dinner-table discussions about politics are taken to the polls. In the past several weeks, we have admired the campaign signs on the lawns of small-town Northfielders and have grown tired of the endless campaign ads on Hulu featuring Angie Craig in a Jeep. This past Tuesday, it was once again time to set aside our busy lives as full-time students to draw our attention to the more important issues in all of our lives: politics. Voting is considered to be a privilege, carried out by each citizen of the United States. It is naturally expected of us to carry out our country’s ideal system of democracy. But what does that cost us all? Time.
Where does one find the time to vote? For college students, it’s not hard to vote between classes. For the average working-class American, however, time is of the essence. Between work and childcare, it can be pretty strenuous to find the time to vote. When one does find that little slot of time to carry out a civil duty, however, it tends to be at the same time as everyone else – lunch breaks, rush hour, right after dinner. Where does this take voters, then? Crowded buildings, long lines and annoying St. Olaf exit-pollers. Instead of having every citizen vote at the same time –early mornings and late evenings – it would be beneficial to make Election Day a national holiday. This would give everyone the opportunity to vote and/or volunteer at a time that works best for them.
Each year my mother brings up the same question: “How do they expect working people to vote?” For my mother, a single parent of four kids, finding the time to do anything other than work was difficult. Each Election Day when I was growing up, my mom would take me to the polls after working her 12+ hour shift. We stood in a long line along with the other working parents, just barely making it in time. Making Election Day a holiday would take the stress off these voters and keep a steady moving line with people filtering through at different times.
Other countries are already ahead of the game in this regard. South Korea and Singapore both declared their Election Day a holiday. Other countries, such as France and Germany, have their elections on a Sunday.
An argument against making Election Day a holiday is that not all workers would get time off. Retail, restaurant and hospital employees would still work their shifts as they do for every other holiday. Yes, this would not be fair. However, a significant amount of people would still be able to vote before the evening rush. Although some would not get the day off, more people would be able to participate in elections. This could mean more volunteers facilitating the process and an increased voter turnout.
Another argument against making Election Day a holiday is the lack of childcare opportunities on holidays. If schools close, many parents would likely struggle to find childcare for the day. This is a fair argument. However, speaking from experience, this doesn’t have to be a negative factor. My mother could never afford childcare when she raised me – wherever she went, I went. Regardless, I feel this gave me a firm grasp on elections and American politics, as whenever we went I asked her a relentless number of questions. As a child does best, I asked her about everything I saw.
The nostalgia I felt as I voted for the first time this past week was overwhelming. So to any faculty or staff reading this: I hope you brought your kids with you on Tuesday. Maybe they’ll feel the same way I did when it’s their turn to vote.
Evelyn Slater ’22 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Saint Cloud, Minn. Her major is undecided.