Prompted by a student journalist to address the consistent low turnout in U.S. elections, President Obama this week endorsed the idea of a national voting holiday, an idea most prominently put forth at the federal level by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
As first reported nationally by Slate, the president was speaking with staff reporter Dan Corey of Rutgers University’s student newspaper, The Daily Targum, when they had this exchange:
Creating a national holiday for voting—which would give working people, parents, students, and the population at-large better poll access—has long been a policy proposal for voting rights activists who argue that single-day voting disenfranchises millions of people each year. Though not the only needed reform to lift turnout, experts argue (and evidence shows) it would go a long way toward expanding civic participation.
As Common Dreams reported at the time, Sen. Sanders in 2014 proposed a national “Democracy Day” designed to increase turnout and as a direct counter to Republican-led efforts to suppress voting nationwide.
“In America,” stated Sanders at the time, “we should be celebrating our democracy and doing everything possible to make it easier for people to participate in the political process. Election Day should be a national holiday so that everyone has the time and opportunity to vote. While this would not be a cure-all, it would indicate a national commitment to create a more vibrant democracy.
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