Friday, October 17, 2008

Make Election Day A Holiday!

The Commonwealth of Virginia has seen its voter registration rolls increase by ten percent this year, the largest single-year increase in memory. And, a new report worries that the state may not be ready to handle all these newcomers on election. Recent reports about fraudulent registrations only make the picture more confusing and alarming.

It is difficult to be too histrionic about the importance of getting elections right: They are the basis of our entire democracy. So, worry about having enough voting machines, voter fraud, and the like are important worries. At a time when all levels of government are tightening their belts, it is important not to skimp on the budget for a sufficient number of voting machines and staff to process the expected large turnout.

There is one reform that we should enact that costs nothing. Election Day should be a federal holiday. If people working two jobs see a two hour wait at the polls, they are not going to be able to vote. Students with a full course load and a part-time job don’t have time wait in the long lines we witnessed in college towns like Columbus, Ohio last year. Making the day a holiday would make it easier for these historically under-represented voters to exercise their most basic right of citizenship.

In the small town where I grew up, voter fraud was never much of a problem. Everyone knew everyone else although in my case that was doubly true because my mother was the registrar of voters and, before her, my grandmother was the registrar of voters. But, in large, expanding precincts, it is difficult to know who might be trying to commit voter fraud. Whoever is elected on November 4, should make sure that some money is set aside to help protect the integrity of the franchise.

Elections matter and as we saw in Florida in 2000, we need to plan ahead because every vote really does count.

Michael Sean Winters

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