First a little background: over at Good, I've been doing a series about voter turnout, specifically about Americans' piss-poor voter turnout -- a problem that, among others, threatens the legitimacy of our democracy.
There are various measures of turnout, but all tell the same story: the world's most celebrated democracy is among the worst in this category. For example, "only 44.9 percent of American eligible to vote during the nineties did so." Only 23 of the 163 democracies had worse turnout. Among wealthy nations, the United States is at the very bottom.There are many other big causes, like the fraying of our communal ties. But I didn't want to just talk about the problem but identify some potential fixes.
This problem would be bad for our democracy even if the voters were a representative sample. But as economic inequality grows and poverty becomes more geographically concentrated, poor Americans are increasingly less likely to vote than wealthy ones.
It's tempting to see this as a partisan issue, because only one party—the one that rhymes with Schmuglican—wants fewer people to vote and actively tries to stop "the wrong kind" from showing up at the polls. But the problems responsible for low turnout are bipartisan, like domination by Big Money and Wall Street, corruption, the chasm between the political establishment's professed agenda and its actual one.
Out of my series grew an effort, organized by the good people at Good, to Take Back Tuesday. Casey Caplowe explains.
[A]mong all of the complex and internecine debates surrounding this election season, we gravitated to a specific issue, and came up with a simple solution that was win-win from the perspective of whatever side you were on: Let's make Voting Day a national holiday. When you get to thinking about it, holding an election in the middle of the work week doesn’t make any sense. How can our democracy thrive when voting, perhaps our most broad-reaching civic duty, must be squeezed into what odd hours we can find for it?How outdated is our Tuesday voting tradition? This video (which features Rainn Wilson of the Office fame) explains:
The idea is to make Election Day not just a day free from work and school but to make it a day of civic celebration, like Election Day in other places.
The people at Good aren't waiting for Congress to declare Election Day a national holiday; they're creating their own do-it-yourself holiday. As part of this effort, they're putting their money where their mouths are, giving their own employees the day off on November 6th, and they're encouraging other employers to do the same.
Employers can join the effort here and so far (the campaign just kicked off) these ones have.
1. GOOD, Los Angeles, CAPlease help spread the word.
2. Wearable Collections, Brooklyn, NY
3. Momentum Strategic Marketing, Montgomery Village, MD
4. State of Unique, Los Angeles, CA
5. Open, New York, NY
6. Cartridge World Phillipsburg, Phillipsburg, NJ
7. Multi Products Inc., Evansville, IN
8. Channeling Media LLC, New York, NY
9. Hattery, San Francisco, CA