Enough Already: It’s Time to Make Election Day a Federal Holiday
Greetings from Washington, D.C.
Washingtonians—like the Angelinos Billy Joel sung about—all come from somewhere. I came from New Haven, Connecticut, first when I was twelve, a second time when I was a newly minted college grad, and, finally 22 years ago when I started my career as a headhunter and owner of a boutique executive search firm.
When asked, I do tell people that I am from New Haven, which also happens to be home to The Knights of Columbus. The “K of C” is an organization that had a big part in getting Congress to make Columbus Day a national holiday. Connecticut has a very large Italian population, one of the largest concentrations of Italiani of any state of the union. There, Columbus Day has always been a big deal—most especially in New Haven’s Wooster Street neighborhood and on the parade route through the Elm City’s downtown.
This past year, I noticed something new: my iPhone calendar had listed the federal holiday both as Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day. And that is, because, for some Columbus Day represents repression. The book, 1493, paints a terrible and violent picture of the Colombian Age in the New World.
Simply put, Columbus Day has become toxic.
Meantime, it’s nearly 2020 and the United States has yet to make Election Day a federal holiday. In the 1980s, Congress had no will to create a Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday until some proposed merging Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday—both federal holidays—into a single President’s Day. The freed-up day became MLK, Jr. Day—a federal holiday—and we are all better for it.
That the United States has yet to create a federal holiday for voting needs to change. Congress possesses no will to create another paid federal holiday, thus, I, a proud native New Havener, propose that we move the federal holiday designated for October to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November—Election Day. Those who wish to continue celebrating Christopher Columbus may continue to do so on the later date; those that wish to celebrate the indigenous peoples of the Americas may continue to do so on the later date, as well.
We make it too hard for people to vote. Here in D.C.’s Northern Virginia suburbs this Election Day, voters were turned away from polling places when it was determined by election officials that ballots were incorrectly printed. Voters may get only so much time in their workday to vote; it can be safely assumed that a disproportionate number of them never returned to their polling places, hours later, when the ballot problems were solved.
And, that’s not right.
If you agree that voting is something that should be made easy—or easier—by designation of a federal holiday then I urge you to contact your Member of Congress and demand that they take action, to move the federal holiday currently in October to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Voting is a cherished right. Let’s honor our forefathers and foremothers who made that right to vote a thing.
And when we do that, our best days lie ahead.
DAN SMOLEN is founder of The Dan Smolen Experience. He is also the executive producer and host of The Tightrope Meaningful Work Podcast. Listen and subscribe to us by keywording “The Tightrope Podcast” on Apple Podcasts. Also, please rate us and offer suggestions for future guests and topics.
Photo credit: Election Day line, TIME.