During the nineteenth century, election day was a national holiday. There were parades and celebrations, and newly eligible voters could not wait to complete this American rite of passage. Perhaps most importantly, during this time period 80% of eligible voters cast their ballots. More recently? In 2016, only 56% of voting-age people actually voted, meaning that “120 million eligible Americans did not participate” in the election. When this large amount of people do not vote, the outcome of the election will not always represent the true popular opinion. Of course, some of the people might have chosen not to vote, but the majority encountered obstacles while they were trying to vote.
For example, every state but one requires voters to register to vote. This may sound like no big deal, but it can end up being a subtle act of voter suppression. To register, you need to list an address, meaning that people who are homeless are not able to register. Just because these people do not have a home does not mean that their vote should not count, but sadly this is the reality for around 44,240 homeless Americans.
While this number is large, it is not even the most influential act of voter suppression. “More than half (56%) of nonvoters reported annual family incomes under $30,000,” which may not seem like a big deal, but much of this demographic “can’t afford to skip class or take off a shift,” especially when more than half of businesses do not give workers paid time off to vote, and the majority of the ones that do are white-collar employers. Considering that 37% of nonvoters did not prefer the elected candidate in the 2016 election, these missing votes could have actually changed the outcome of the election. Even though it is nearly impossible to get every single eligible voter to vote on Election Day, making it a holiday would greatly increase voter turnout and more accurately represent the popular opinion. The data from the 2016 presidential elections proves that when people are given time off, specifically paid time off, they are more likely to vote. In Colorado, where they give paid time off, 71.9% of eligible voters voted, but in Indiana, where they give no time off, only 60.6% of eligible voters voted. As the ease of voting decreases, so does the percent of eligible voters who voted, with a discrepancy as large as 17% between some states. Therefore, if election day was made a federal holiday, people who work jobs that do not give time off would have time to vote, and the outcome of the election would more accurately represent the true popular opinion.