Tensions rise as Election Day, still months away, inches closer and closer. Super Tuesday passed by last week, and primary elections are beginning to narrow the pool of candidates to those who have the greatest chance to win. Hillary Clinton leads the Democratic Party, while Donald Trump leads the Republican Party. Clinton and Trump lead by sizeable gaps, but it is very possible that these results do not accurately reflect the preferences of the American people for one simple reason: many people don’t vote. In order to ensure accurate elections, we must find a way to encourage every citizen to get out and vote, and national holidays for both the primary and the general election may just be the perfect way to do that.
In the first recorded democratic civilization in Athens, Greece, every single vote counted equally, and every person voted. There are advantages and disadvantages to this form of democracy. Obviously, if every person votes and is counted equally, the true desires of the population are well represented at the government level. However, misrepresentation may also occur in a situation like the one in Athens. Because every vote counts equally, densely populated areas and majority demographics have greater control over the government, while countryside areas and minorities have little to no control. Additionally, political processes move incredibly slowly. Modern democracies like the one in the United States have found solutions for these problems, but they also blur the lines of what is truly a democracy.
In the United States, a citizen’s vote does not directly decide who becomes president. Instead, votes influence the way electorates from the Electoral College vote. This way, citizens of Montana receive the same representation as citizens from California, even though there are far fewer people in Montana. Other decisions are made by members of the government instead of all people, which speeds up political processes. The downside here is that people don’t technically have much control over their government at all. An example of when this issue was most relevant was in 2000, when former president George Bush defeated Al Gore. Even though Gore won the popular vote, Bush won the votes of the Electoral College. The vote then went to the United States Supreme Court, which voted 5–4 in favor of Bush. If every U.S. citizen had voted, perhaps the outcome would have been different.
Because the most important factor in a democracy is that every person’s voice is heard, it is essential that every person votes. Compulsory voting sounds intimidating and forceful, but a holiday would make it fun and worthwhile. The only question, then, is what would an “Election Day” holiday look like? First of all, there would be two every time election season came around—one for the primary or caucus, and one for the general election. On Election Day, every business in the country would follow a strict holiday schedule, meaning any business that could close would do so, and other businesses would have employees work shorter shifts. Instead of working, citizens would have one simple task: to vote. For the rest of the day, citizens would be completely free to do whatever they please, just like any other holiday recognized by the national government. This would promote support and excitement about Election Day, a day that might otherwise seem boring and unattractive.
One problem with the new holidays is, while general elections are held on the same day across the country, primary elections and caucuses are more spread out. There are two possible solutions to this problem: each state could have its own holiday for primaries, or the entire country could simply do its primary voting on the same day. Either way, more people would become involved in the political process, which is always a win.
The next problem is that not everybody would be able to make it to the voting precinct. There are several ways to solve this, but the simplest and most effective may simply be to allow people to vote online. Allowing online ballots may seem scary at first due to hackers and other security risks, but it would be easy for the government to make a secure and easy website through which people can cast their votes. The internet already holds vast amounts of confidential and sensitive information, and with something as important as presidential elections, people could feel confident in the fact that cybersecurity would be a priority.
Along with removing a person’s excuse to not vote, however, would need to come additional assurance that every citizen would exercise his or her right to vote. Unfortunately, the best way to do this would be to enforce a penalty for not voting. The penalty would not need to be much — a simple $5 fine come tax season would be enough to convince most people to vote. Of course, some people would still be adamantly against voting, in which case there would need to be an opt-out option to satisfy their desires.
While voting is a right, there are some who fear that compulsory voting would result in uneducated people casting uneducated votes. Not only does this fear ignore the fact that the right to vote is one for which people gave their lives, but it is essentially wrong. Citizens tend to know more than they are given credit for, and what they don’t know should be easy to learn. To help ensure that every vote is an educated vote, unbiased information could be readily available at the voting website. Most of the people who do not vote are young people and minorities, which results in older, white people being overrepresented at a government level. Right now, the form of government we have is basically an oligarchy, serving to the best interests of those who are rich and educated enough to vote for their personal interests, and it will continue to be that way until something is done.
When people don’t vote, democracy doesn’t exist. Fixing this issue doesn’t need to be painful, though, and a holiday is the perfect way to make voting enjoyable. Only when every single U.S. citizen votes will there be a chance at true equality.