A number of communities are canceling classes on Election Day due to a fear about possible threats to school security and student safety, reports the New York Times (“Safety Concerns Eclipse Civic Lessons as Schools Cancel Classes on Election Day”).
The headline and the article suggests that canceling classes negates the possibility of using the voting process — which often takes place in school gymnasiums and cafeterias — as a real life civics lesson. In the current context, that’s probably true, as these schools are trying to balance safety, security and voting all on their own without the support of policymakers.
I strongly favor making Election Day a national holiday. U.S. Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-Michigan) sponsored a bill (H.R. 63) in 2005 that would have accomplished exactly that. Since presidential elections only come around every four years, states should seek to codify election days as state holidays as well. In fact, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and West Virginia have already done so.
Making Election Day a national holiday would elevate the democratic process as something sacred, a protected day when real life can at least slow down and working families can easily find the time to cast their ballots and have their children accompany them if they so choose. The movement toward more early voting is certainly terrific, but there is something special about walking into a polling place on the actual election day and exercising your democratic right.
Here’s an alternative initiative focused, in part, on the issue of why we vote on Tuesdays. (In short, because the Constitution says so, based on the needs of the 18th Century agrarian economy.) Why Tuesday? is supported by the likes of Bill Bradley, Jack Kemp, Norman Ornstein, Joe Trippi and Andrew Young. Cool.