Election Day in the United States is set as the Tuesday following the first Monday in November, and it only occurs in even-numbered years. This year, Election Day includes voting for the next President of the United States.
Some groups, such as WhyTuesday.org, question if this is the best strategy for elections. They argue that there’s “no good reason to vote on a Tuesday to begin with,” and if we can’t change the day of the week, we should make Election Day a federal holiday so that most voters will not have to work.
This seems like a good idea to increase voter turnout. As another way of achieving the same goal, some companies are closing on Nov. 8 this year to allow their employees ample time to visit their polling place. CNN Money reports that the list of companies that will be closed includes General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Patagonia and Thrillist.
With this in mind, shouldn’t universities also have the power to cancel classes and give students extra time to cast their ballot? While some students go to school too far away for a single day off to change their ability to vote, absentee voting is meant for them. For others, a day off to drive a few hours away to their polling place would give them the opportunity to vote.
At ETSU, it doesn’t seem that the idea of canceling classes on Election Day has ever been proposed.
“The academic calendar for ETSU is set by the Tennessee Board of Regents,” said Joe Smith, the Executive Assistant to the President for University Relations. “Classes have taken place and university offices have been open during election day since I have been at ETSU in the 1990s.”
As our university moves away from TBR control, this could be the time for change to occur.
And it’s an important change. According to FairVote.org, voter turnout rates in the U.S. for the past three presidential elections, have hovered around only 60 percent of the voting-eligible population.
For comparison, The Nation reports that voter turnout rates in Germany are typically over 70 percent, Scandinavia’s are usually above 80 percent and Belgium beats them all at 90 percent or greater.
So why can’t we have similar rates in America?
It’s a complicated issue. For one, different countries have different laws in place, different political climates and different attitudes toward voting. All of these would have to be factored into any plan to raise voter turnout rates.
And making Election Day a federal holiday (or moving it to the weekend, when most people don’t have to work), is only one of the suggestions for improvement.
FairVote.org details a comprehensive plan of action on its website that includes changing the way we hold elections and count votes. Their advocate fair representation voting that would get rid of the winner-take-all system in some districts and a national popular vote which would make every vote in every state equal. These two suggestions ultimately offer that we get rid of the Electoral College system.
Additionally, FairVote proposes that we switch from First-Past-the-Post voting to Instant Runoff Voting. For those unfamiliar with the differences between the systems, YouTuber CGPGrey has a series of videos on voting systems that clearly explain the differences.
FairVote’s final suggestion is Universal Voter Registration. This practice would change voting registration from an opt-in system to an opt-out system. In a first-world nation with a system already in place for driver’s licenses, social security numbers and other forms of government-issued identification, this just makes sense. Why are we not automatically registered to vote when we receive our driver’s license or other ID?
All of these methods, including closing businesses and canceling classes on Election Day, seem like the solution we need to fix our country’s low voter turnout rates.