Local voters wonder if Election Day should be a national holiday

By Sarah Heikkinen, MNO 617.1

Published on November 8, 2016

Voters follow the signs to the polls at the North Syracuse School District offices. (c) 2016 Sarah Heikkinen

NORTH SYRACUSE, N.Y. (Democracy in Action) Lines grew and polling workers ran around responding to problems at the North Syracuse School District voting site earlier this morning, while parents brought their children into the polls and voters rushed to their cars to get back to work.

In 2012, 59 percent of New Yorkers were registered to vote, according to the United States Census Bureau. Fifty percent of them actually voted. Nationally, only 54 percent of registered voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election. Some well-known politicians, like Senator Bernie Sanders, want to make it easier for some working voters to cast their ballots.

“Election Day should be a national holiday so that everyone has the time and opportunity to vote,” tweeted Sanders on November 7.

Voters at the North Syracuse School District offices had mixed opinions about the potential impact of making Election Day a federal holiday on voter turnout. Shannon Rice, 46, says since she’s always been able to get out and vote, she doesn’t see why other people are having so much difficulty.

“The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., so I think most people can finagle it,” Rice says. “Even if you work a second or third shift, you can figure out a way to get to the polls.”

Rachel Gill, 54, disagrees. Originally from Pakistan, Gill says that back home, Pakistani citizens are given at least a half day to vote during elections, which she thinks is necessary, especially in high-stakes elections like this year’s.

“This is a very big day for America,” she says.

She says her father, a retired Pakistani Air Force soldier, emphasized the importance of voting.

“He always said, ‘We are citizens, we have to participate,'” says Gill. “So I have to come for him.”

College students like Taylor Kuzell, 21, and Morgan Defazio, 21, also believe Election Day should be a national holiday. Both Kuzell and Defazio were able to get out and vote at the district offices, but think it can be difficult for other voting students.

“College students have to travel back home if they weren’t able to get an absentee ballot,” Kuzell says. “It’s kind of inconvenient.”

While making Election Day a national holiday could potentially increase voter turnout among working voters, a few problems should be considered: The International Business Times says creating a new holiday would not only take a long time but would make companies and employers lose money, as they would be adding another paid holiday to their work year.

William Jensen, 75, says he thinks making Election Day a national holiday wouldn’t make a difference either way. “It’s just another paid holiday the government would get,” he says.

One woman leaving the polls declined an interview, saying, “I’m sorry, I’m late for work.”