Why Oppose Making Election Day a Federal Holiday?

The House Democrats will soon pass a bill called the For the People Act of 2019. You could call it a modern day Voting Rights Act. It would create new rules for federal elections, including same-day registration and a mandated early-voting period. It would “strip the power to set congressional boundaries from state legislatures, 30 of which are controlled by Republicans, and hand it over to new independent commissions.” It would gut voter ID laws aimed at suppressing the vote by allowing people to give a sworn statement as to their identity.

Generally speaking, the Republicans oppose all of these measures because they would make it easier to vote, or would take away the disproportionate advantage they get in being able to draw districts. However, the one provision that really seems to irk Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is the proposal to make Election Day a national holiday. McConnell took to the Senate floor to call this proposal “a power grab” by the Democrats, and he sniffed dismissively, “Just what America needs: another paid holiday.”

I don’t know any people who dislike paid federal holidays. It doesn’t seem like a vote-getter to oppose giving people a day off work. But if we have too many holidays, maybe we should take one away and replace it with the day people are actually supposed to be doing their civic duty by participating in our representative democracy. I can’t see that proposal being unpopular.

Needless to say, the Republicans aren’t going to take the Democrats’ House bill up in the Senate. McConnell’s home state of Kentucky is currently disenfranchising black voters at the highest rate in the country, and that’s just how he likes it. He has no interest in making it easier for people to vote. He doesn’t want to eliminate work/school conflicts for people. He doesn’t want people to be able to register to vote at the voting booth. He doesn’t want people to be able to vote early or to have more options about where and how to vote. He doesn’t want people without photo ID to be able to swear under penalty of perjury that they are who they say they are. He doesn’t want to give up his party’s gerrymandering advantage.

Since he wants none of these things, he won’t allow any of these things.

It’s just strange that he chose to pick on the holiday provision. That’s the one thing I’d think he’d want to avoid discussing, since it is doubtlessly the most popular proposal in the whole bill.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com