In an effort to boost participation in the nation's elections, Sen. Debbie
Stabenow (D-MI) offered legislation that would make Election Day in November
a national holiday.
Stabenow says her proposal is rooted in studies of voter participation in the
world's major democracies and in a survey completed by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The legislation also draws on the findings of a bipartisan commission headed
by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. The commission was created to recommend
election reforms after the 2000 election.
"Studies of the 21 most advanced democracies, going all the way back to
1945, show the United States rate of voter participation is one of the lowest
in the world - and continues to fall," Stabenow says. "Between 1980
and 2000, voter participation in Australia, Italy, Germany, Denmark and Sweden
was 80 percent or better, and participation in Israel, Great Britain and Canada
was 70 percent or better. Over the same period, however, voter participation
in the United States was just 50 percent."
Stabenow notes a survey done by the U.S. Census Bureau shortly after the 2000
elections that found respondents cited a schedule conflict with work or school
as the number one reason for not voting.
"Declaring Election Day a national holiday would make it easier for millions
of busy Americans to get to the polls," Stabenow says. "In addition,
we would have more public buildings - especially schools - available as potential
polling places, and we would have a larger pool of potential poll workers to
staff those locations."