Smialowski, Brandan—AFP/Getty Images
By Ethan Wolff-Mann
May 13, 2016

Voting happens on Tuesdays, and Tuesdays are weekdays–work days. It’s one reason why the U.S. has such poor election turnout. Even though most states, like New York, technically require employers to allow workers to leave the job for a few hours to vote, many working Americans find it difficult to squeeze in a visit to the voting booth during a hectic work day.

One of the ways proposed to increase voter turnout is making election day into a federal holiday, when non-essential employees would be off of work, just like on Thanksgiving or Memorial Day. The idea, which would obviously make it easier for more Americans to participate in the democratic process, has been floated occasionally. Last year Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT-I) introduced a bill that would make the first Tuesday in November—in even-numbered years—a national holiday. The bill has not gotten anywhere yet, however.

But the movement has just gotten one major new supporter: President Barack Obama himself. In an interview he gave to a Rutgers student newspaper The Daily Targum, President Obama was asked whether the U.S. should follow the lead of other countries that treat voting day as a holiday.

“Absolutely. We are the only advanced democracy that makes it deliberately difficult for people to vote,” he said. He continued: “The single most dramatic political change that could occur in this country—and the best way for us to relieve the frustrations that people feel around the political process—would be if we had greater participation that was more reflective of the day-to-day concerns that people have.”

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While Obama has endorsed the concept of making election day a holiday in interviews, ThinkProgress noted that he has not pushed particularly hard for Congress to pass legislation to actually make the change. Furthermore, he has not issued an executive order that would give federal employees the day off and bring the issue to the fore.

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