Why isn't US Election Day a holiday?

This Nov. 8, arguably the world's most powerful person will be elected to the highest office in the land; but for most Americans, the day is rather humdrum, with people rushing off to work and school. [5 Influential Leaders Who Transformed the World]

So why isn't this important day a federal holiday?

It turns out, various people have pushed for a so-called "Voting Day" or "Democracy Day" over the years. For instance, in 2005, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan put forward a bill to make the election day a national holiday. The bill didn't pass, which is why Americans still head to the polls before rushing off to work.

The impetus behind voting-holiday measures is to increase voter turnout. The U.S. has one of the lowest voter turnouts of developed democracies in the world, with only 53.6 percent of the eligible voting population coming out for the presidential election in 2012, as compared with 87.6 percent in Belgium and 84.3 percent in Turkey, according to the Pew Research Center. Those stats make Americans seem like political slackers, but the numbers are somewhat misleading, because both Belgium and Turkey have compulsory voting, Pew said. Yet even countries where voting is voluntary often have higher turnout than the United States, depending on the issue or election. For instance, the Brexit Referendum on whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union drew 72 percent of eligible voters, according to Pew.

However, it's not clear that switching voting day to a weekend or a holiday would boost participation, said a 2009 working paper by Henry Farber, a researcher at Princeton University in New Jersey. By studying the impact on voter turnout of state policies that grant paid voting holidays, the study found that a national paid holiday for voting would not significantly boost voter turnout, and could have downsides.

"The economic cost of such a holiday is substantial, particularly understanding that the act of voting is 1) generally not very time-consuming (at least compared with the length of a workday) and 2) that the polls are generally open from early morning until late evening," Farber wrote in the paper.

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