The United States continues to gear up for the 2020 elections — and one Ohio city is taking a unique path to get there. This week, the city of Sandusky officially discarded Columbus Day as a holiday and shifted the paid time off city employees normally got on that second Monday in October to Election Day, which falls on the first Tuesday of November. In other words, in the city of Sandusky, Election Day is now a holiday, while Columbus Day is not.
Sandusky’s city manager Eric Wobser explained:
‘We are swapping them to prioritize Voting Day as a day off so that our employees can vote. It’s also because Columbus Day has become controversial and many cities have eliminated it as a holiday.’
The shift takes effect this year.
Advocates across the country have long pushed to make Election Day a holiday in order to open up opportunities to vote, since if employees generally had the day off specifically in light of ongoing elections, they could easily be more inclined — and free — to vote. You might hope that opening up opportunities for Americans to have their voices heard wouldn’t be a partisan issue — but here we are.
Across the country, Republicans have stifled efforts at getting out the vote through means including strict voter ID laws that exclude some minorities and low income people and purging people from the voter rolls for reasons ranging from repeatedly skipping elections to being suspected of not being allowed to vote in the first place. Targeted individuals very often end up proving to have no actual quality that should keep them from voting.
Still, Democrats have persisted. The very first piece of legislation that House Democrats put forward when they formally assumed their position as the majority this past January includes a provision to turn Election Day into a national holiday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is among those to speak out against such a proposal, griping that it would just be an opportunity for Democrats to beef up their own campaigns.
Meanwhile — indicating just where McConnell’s stance lies on the spectrum of history — the current election day tradition dates back to before the Civil War, when authorities set election days on Tuesdays in order to allow voters a chance to travel to the polls after religious services held the previous weekend.
Election day is already a state holiday in New York, Delaware, and Hawaii, meaning the proposal to shift from McConnell’s centuries-old mindset is catching on.
As Sandusky’s city manager noted, there’s been a concurrent national push away from Columbus Day, since in reality, the European explorer Christopher Columbus perpetrated atrocities against native peoples.
A number of municipalities have dismissed the explorer’s holiday, often replacing it with a designated day to honor indigenous people like in Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont, Oregon, and South Dakota.
The efforts have run parallel to advocates’ pushes for southern Americans to recognize the dark realities associated with relics of the Civil War era that some of them hold so dear, and monuments to Confederate figures have come down across the country at this point.
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