President Obama recently expressed support for making election day a national holiday -or enacting some measure with a similar effect. As has been obscenely shown in the primary season this year, and as Obama said:
‘We are the only advanced democracy that makes it deliberately difficult for people to vote.’
It’s so bad that some, including those the most affected by the restrictions, have suggested widespread malicious intent in the laws and regulations pertaining to voting.
In one case, such intent was confirmed. Wisconsin recently held one of its first elections to operate under a very strict voter ID law. On election night, one GOP lawmaker confirmed to the media that, yes, the law was intended to suppress the vote. Those who often have trouble obtaining appropriate identification include low income and minority groups, and those people often vote Democrat. You can see why GOP lawmakers want to suppress their vote. Similar situations in, for example, Arizona, have prompted massive lawsuits and sparked huge popular upheavals.
The exact question Obama answered was this:
‘[I]n many other countries, the government automatically registers voters and holds elections on days that are weekend days or national holidays. Do you think it’s time for the U.S. to follow their lead?’
Obama’s loose agreement with the suggestion to make election day a national holiday or the like comes in the midst of massive efforts to enact democratic reform. As one group, which is advocating for a “one time national holiday” to be proclaimed on Election Day 2016, stated, “Voting should be easy, but people in power are making it anything but.” You can watch a promotional video they made for their efforts below.
And below, you can read Obama’s exact response to his interview question below.
‘Absolutely. We are the only advanced democracy that makes it deliberately difficult for people to vote. And some of it has to do with the nature of our history and our Constitution, where we allow individual states to determine their own processes for structuring elections within certain boundaries…And so everything we can do to make sure that we’re increasing participation is something that we should promote and encourage. Our democracy is not going to function well when only half or a third of eligible voters are participating. The single most dramatic political change that could occur in this country—and the best way for us to relieve the frustrations that people feel around the political process—would be if we had greater participation that was more reflective of the day-to-day concerns that people have.’
The interview was held with the editor-in-chief of Rutgers University’s The Daily Targum, Dan Corey, who is a college student himself.
Notably, Obama’s expression of support for electoral reform puts him behind one of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s biggest campaign trail talking points. As a US Senator, it is even more than a talking point for Sanders. He is responsible for having introduced a bill making election day a national holiday back in August.
Featured Image is Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.