Want more voters? Two simple ways to get them

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, December 15, 2016

There are two surefire ways to improve voter turnout in U.S. elections: We should automatically register citizens to vote and we should make Election Day a national holiday.

These are both simple, straightforward ideas implemented by many other democracies around the world but not by the U.S.

Automatic registration could be built onto existing government systems that already complete other things automatically for citizens (think Social Security). Instead of having to do the work to register, every person ought to get a postcard in the mail when they turn 18, not unlike males already get for the draft. The postcard could inform them that they are registered and provide them with information on polling places and how to affiliate with a political party.

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Such an automatic system would ensure more eligible voters are able to cast votes, but it could also be implemented in a way that addresses the fears some have about illegal voter registration or the use of dead people’s names to vote.

Making Election Day a national holiday would be another great pro-democracy step.

It astounds me that Election Day hasn’t been a holiday since this country was founded.

We all get time off to celebrate the founding of the country on July 4, but we get no time off to participate in the most important aspect of our citizenship. That’s absurd.

Right now, many people have to try and cram in a vote before work starts, ask for time off from their employers (some states do not require employers to allow time off to vote), or rush out of work and jump in line just before 6 p.m.

We spend months, even years, learning about candidates and preparing for Election Day. We ought to be able to spend Election Day in celebration, focused on our votes. We shouldn’t have to tack democracy onto the end of our lunch breaks.