Thursday, October 30, 2008

Make Election Day a National Holiday? I don't think so....

I did a post yesterday about Obama telling his supporters to ask for Tuesday off in order to make calls on his behalf, knock on doors on his behalf, as well as vote for him. I received some interesting comments on that post, but I feel the need to respond publicly to one person in particular. Well, actually two, since Brenda agreed with Brian, the commenter I'm referring to. Before I go any further, I should point out that I actually know Brian in real life. I know him and I thoroughly like and respect him. I want to make that perfectly clear. His family and my family are friends and, in fact, one of my kids even babysits his kids every know and then. Brian is also a dedicated Star Wars fan which, as some of you know, wins BIG points with me. The point I'm trying to make here is that Brian is my friend and while we have much common ground (hey! Star Wars counts for a lot!), we also have areas of disagreements. Brian's opinion about election day in this country is one such area. Here's some of what Brian had to say (by the way, those of you who didn't pay attention in civics class back in the day or if "back in the day" is too far back to remember {ha!}, Brian explains the reason why election day is held on the day it is. It's good info!):
"It goes both ways. You could take the day off and push for McCain as well. There are some people that want to see the voting day moved to a more practical time. The 1st Tuesday in November was chosen by President Taylor in 1845. At that time, it was a good day after the harvest when predominantly agrarian men would have plenty of time to go to the polls. It was also when the weather was still mild enough and dry enough as to not hinder travel. After observing Sunday as a day of rest, farmers used Monday to travel to often far-away voting sites for the Tuesday vote.
We should examine making election day a bigger deal in this country. The US lags behind many other nations in voter turnout (this year may be an exception). A friend from Russia, spoke of the parties and celebrations they had on election day. It was a national holiday so nobody had to work. Many things were available in the markets (he mentions bananas) that couldn't be had any other time of the year. All of these things were incentives to get people to get out of their home and vote.There has been some push to move election day to a more practical day. Scheduling elections on a day when so many Americans must also go to work or school flies in the face of our nation's mission to open democracy for all, makes it difficult or impossible for most parents to take their children to the polls (instilling the importances of voting), and makes chaos at polling centers inevitable.*"

(*Brian's comments as posted here are a compilation of two comments he actually left due to a confusion over my blog moderator procedure.)

Brian, dude, I love 'ya, you know I do. But I not only disagree with this, I have to say I vehemently disagree with it. First I'll address the view of moving election day to a more practical day: It no longer matters what specific day the election is held on. According to The National Conference of State Legislatures, early voting is available in every state in the union. Voters are no longer restricted to having to be at their particular polling place on a particular date during a particular time. For the most part, you can now avoid long lines, you can vote in a more convenient location, you can even mail in your ballot, if need be. Heck, in our area alone, there's been 9 locations available for early voting (which started 17 days prior to the official election date). With the early voting available all across this country, I think it certainly gives a wide enough time frame for people to get in and cast their vote if they want to.
Now, my big area of disagreement...the notion of making election day a "bigger deal" in this country. I'm not sure what you mean by that. A bigger deal? Heck, it is a huge deal to me. Why? Because I pay attention. Because I seek out information and views. Because I make it my business to learn what I can and try to discuss with others so that I can learn even more. So how could election day be a bigger deal? I assume everybody who cares about the direction our country is going in is making election day a big deal. Who isn't? The person who doesn't care? The person who only gets involved when he's offered a cigarette or a buck for his efforts? The person who expects his government to take care of his every need? I gotta tell 'ya...voting is a privilege. Yeah, a privilege. Not just a right. This is a prime example of (to paraphrase President John F. Kennedy) what we can do for our country, not what our country can do for us. It shouldn't be made into a national holiday. It shouldn't be "celebrated" with incentives and enticements to get people out to vote. People should get out to vote because they feel driven to say their part, cast their ballot, have their voice heard. You make election day a national holiday and voter turnout will plummet to all time lows. "Election Day Sales" down at your local Lowe's, Home Depot and car dealerships nationwide might skyrocket, but I can guarantee you that voter turnout will not increase in any way, shape or form. For heaven's sake, look at our current national holidays: Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday. What do you do on that day? Me? Not much. Hang out with my husband, since he's off work that day. I'm not out there talking up the best points of what was most assuredly a great man. Not many Americans are. Presidents Day/Washington's birthday. What do you do on that day? Me? Same as MLK day. Hang with my husband. I'm not thinking of ways of honoring Washington or Lincoln. Sorry. I think very highly of both of them, but hey, that day isn't truly dedicated to thoughts of them. I'd venture to say most Americans feel the same way. Independence Day. What do you do on that day? Me? Well, we might go check out some fireworks. Or we might drive up to my dad's. Go to a BBQ maybe. Usually, we just hang out, though. I do think of the blessing of being an American. I do take some time to marvel at what a great country we live in. But I'm not out there trying to improve America in any other way on that day, other than telling my kids how blessed we all are to live here. Veteran's Day. What do you do on that day? Me? Well, we might go to a local parade. We might take a moment to think about our family's and friends' service to our nation. But by and large, we don't make a big effort to congregate with other people in an effort to "celebrate" the day. Not many people do, really. It's a good day to honor our fallen, but that doesn't take any truly physical effort on our part. We only have to use our prayers and our hearts to do it.
The bottom line is, you give Americans a holiday, and you'll get a bunch of laid back Americans. Sorry, but that's the way of it. We all love a holiday, but we don't necessarily honor that holiday with its intended purpose. But even if that wasn't the case, even if it was made into a holiday and Americans made a big effort and decided to go out and vote before they hit the couch, I would still disagree with making it an actual holiday. Because again, voting is something we should be doing for our country. Getting the entire day off of work in order to cast our vote is not something our country (or employers for that matter) should be doing for us. We all have ample time and opportunity to get our votes in. It's a matter of what, if any, effort we want to put out. It doesn't actually take a lot of effort now. Making it a holiday won't make it any easier. It'll just make it easier to turn election day into another free day off from work. Period. The problem with voter turnout isn't "getting to the polls". It's a mindset of some Americans who feel like it's too much of a "hassle", or it's too "inconvenient" or it just "doesn't matter". Giving Americans the day off won't change that thinking. It's a personification of that old saying "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". Exact same thing.
As far as instilling the importance of voting in our children, I think I've done that with my kids. I talk to them about the candidates, about the issues, about the vote. I love discussing politics with them even though politics has become a dirty subject to many of my fellow citizens for some reason. I show my kids how excited I am to vote. I show them my passion for finding out the truth and for investigating issues and stands. I don't need for my kids to see me "touch the screen" or "punch the chad" or "fill in the little circle" in order to instill the importance of voting in them. They understand that by the importance we give election discussions that go on in our household.
And finally...Brian, I have to say, when we start taking voting cues from the likes of Russia, we're in bigger trouble in this country than I could have ever imagined. Prime Minister Putin and his puppet president can keep their damn bananas. I'll take my reward in the form of knowing I did my part. I cast my ballot. I let my voice be heard. Considering all that America has done for me, I figure voting is the least I can do for her.

15 comments:

  1. I will be at the polls bright and early, as soon as they open, to cast my vote.

    Do you realize, with the exception of a rare few, Americans work more days, and longer hours, to earn their living (and in order to pay their taxes) than any other civilized nation in the world?
    It's kind of ironic that even with all that work, the lowest of the wage earners pay the largest percentage of the taxes in this country, and I know this to be true from experience.

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  2. Hi Girlfriene!

    I haven't been by in awhile. Between our trips, my getting the flu and all my company for the breast cancer walk, my life has been c-r-a-z-y!!! Everyone has gone now though and my house is quiet (thank you Lord!). BUT...I'm desperatly trying to get caught up and it's been fun seeing what you've been doing.

    Wow! You've lost over 47 pounds!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You go girl! Amazing!

    You've been boo-ed, so stop by my blog when you get a chance.

    Hugs!
    Kat

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  3. Another excellent post!

    I voted early last week! Now I sit and chew my fingernails about the outcome.

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  4. I spoke to my daughter in Chicago this morning. She said one of her co-workers voted early yesterday and stood in line for 2 hours to do so. I think you're right when you say record numbers will be voting this election. I totally agree with you on not making it a national holiday for exactly your reasons.

    Our polling place is less than a mile from our house. My husband likes to be one of the first in line - there's actually a group who look forward to seeing each other every election! My son will be picking me up a little later in the morning (if it's nice we'll walk) and we'll vote together. Both daughters live in Chicago now and are looking forward to voting early.

    PS we shop the sheets sale on Presidents' Day don't we??? : )

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  5. Matt just called and said he drove by an early voting place here in OKC and there was a crazy long line as well as a crazy packed parking lot. He said he was planning to vote early to avoid lines, but is wondering now. He did take off election day and the following day so he could watch the news all day! He is so excited about it all. We sleep with CNN on in our room... personally I am tired of it and want it to be over and move on... hopefully to better things and better choices.

    So... when are you coming to OK? I'm craving Cheesecake Factory and NO not PG. Not possible :)

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  6. See? That's what I mean...spot on...I'm wanting you to have your own tv show...who do I talk to?
    love ya
    Aunt Sandi

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  7. With due respect to Brian, I agree with you, Kari.

    We vote on Election Day. Simple. :-) We have voted for all our lives, since we were old enough to vote. I never cared to hear anyone say... "I'm not voting."

    We vote, even though our dang-dang state will probably go the way it always goes. Not "with" us. But we vote!

    Courage!

    Miss Mari-Nanci

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  8. Happy Halloween!
    Hugs,
    Liz & Mabel

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  9. when
    I was a iittle fledgling it actually was a holiday..take off from work sounds like the beginning of a welfare state to me???

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  10. Making a holiday out of something that is a "privilege" in my opinion makes absolutely no sense...just for the reasons you stated! With all the early voting polls open from 7 to 7 now...there should be no excuse for people to find time to vote. I read the other day if you are disabled or incapable of coming into a voting center...that they would send an offcial out to your car and you could vote from the convenience of your own car. I think this is great for those who have health issues, that way every vote can count!! I rather enjoy walking up to my local polling place and standing in line for however long it takes to cast my vote! Makes me feel very patriotic for some reason...I feel I am doing all I can for my country at that very moment! I voted early for the first time in my life this week...only had to wait about 20 to 30 minutes. In years past I've always voted on election day...I don't know but it made me feel more like I was an immediate part of the process...but this year...I knew I wanted to vote early for many reasons! No matter how long the wait...it is worth it to me!

    Now...I'm just praying a lot...for our country and our people...it's what I feel I must do at this time...PRAY! Just like voting...it is a blessing to be able to do so!!

    Blessings...
    Teresa

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  11. Kari, The real big draw might be to get rid of all the comfortable players in D.C. and put someone up for office we might feel some pride in electing. You are doing a great job with this blog. Glad it was recommended. Pappy

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  12. I had thought about the lazy American attitude with another day off. I think that would dominate in the end. And what could stores offer that we can't get all the rest of the time? We don't live in Soviet-era Russia.
    The point of my comment was more to say that people should be fired up about voting and they should rally their friends and family to do the same.
    I voted early, yesterday. I realized earlier this week that having early voting for 2 weeks with more than 9 hours per day (average), there's plenty of time. I specifically went early because I'm sure Tuesday will be crazy. It usually is even when there isn't a presidential election.
    I also wanted to say that until I turned 18, I never went to a polling place. My elementary school was usually always the polling place for my parents. But because of school and work on election day, they would drop us off at school and then go vote. And because that part of the school was roped off and secured, I never saw it as a kid. When I was a teenager, in Boy Scouts, we helped set up on MOnday nights for Tuesday elections at the church we met at. Those were just really portable tables with curtains (when ballots were penciled in), but I got to see what a voting booth looked like.

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  13. I'm with Brenda and Brian, no big surprise I'm sure to you. Voting is a RIGHT, under our constitution. As is being able to speak our mind whether we agree or disagree with our government. It can also be considered a priviledge and is by those in countries that haven't lived under democracy before. Sill though many areas don't have voting places available early(before election day) to go in and vote. Sure you can send in an absentee ballot but I for one enjoy the thrill(one I've gotten every election day since I was 18 and first registered to vote) of going into that voting booth. As well, many Americans have to work and work long hours or at jobs that take them away from their voting place before it opens or after it closes. Some Americans don't have a car in their driveway (heck some don't have a driveway) to get them to their local polling place so I think it's commendable of people to help get those who are unable to get their to their local polling place. And since you do show commendable concern for those hard working successful business owners who are making over $150,000 a year carrying those of us lazy bums who are only bringing home 20 or 30 thousand I guess I'll get my butt back to work at 7 am tomorrow morning so I can pay a bigger share of taxes, along with my health insurance in hopes that I might someday have enough money to get the dental work done I need and not be such a drain on those hardworking business owners.

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  14. I think I was offended at the take the 4th off just to vote.. because most were willing to trade veterans day holiday. Considering that polls open (at least here) at 7am until 8 or 9pm.. not to mention absentee voting, there is plenty of time to vote. No one needs a day off just to vote. It's demeaning to us that served.

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