Dwight Schrute Wants You to Get the Day Off for Election Day

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A new campaign hopes to encourage voter turnout by getting employers to make November 6 a holiday.

Well, not The Office character. But Rainn Wilson, the actor who plays him, does. He has teamed up with Good to promote "Take Back Tuesday," in which they're trying to convince businesses to close on Election Day in order to make it easier for employees to vote. The list of participants is, let's say, brief at the moment, though it's early yet.

The idea that voters shouldn't have to work on Election Day isn't a new one -- every four years, there are new calls, though none of them has been successful. As Martin Wattenberg wrote in The Atlantic in October 1998, we cast ballots on a Tuesday for outdated historical reasons. When the date of elections was fixed on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in 1872, Sunday was out of the question, as poll-related revelry would have fatally conflicted with the sabbath, and most people worked the other six days anyway. But since the establishment of the five-day work week, the placement no longer makes as much sense. With voter participation gradually sinking over time, Wattenberg wrote, it's time for a drastic change:

Americans have become quite accustomed to Tuesday elections, just as they have to the nonmetric system for weights and measures and other artifacts of another time. State after state has set primary-election dates on Tuesdays -- all twentieth-century decisions, some of them quite recent. It would be difficult to change this custom. Furthermore, there would probably be some resistance from religious minorities that observe the sabbath on Saturday.

An alternative would be to declare Election Day a national holiday. This would probably be resisted on the basis of cost. A solution would be to move Election Day to the second Tuesday of November and combine it with Veterans' Day, traditionally celebrated on November 11. This would send a strong signal about the importance our country attaches to voting. And what better way could there be to honor those who fought for democratic rights than for Americans to vote on what could become known as Veterans' Democracy Day?

Voting on a Tuesday is especially difficult for people who work hourly jobs with low pay in urban centers, because lines are often long and they can't afford to take time off the job; few employers offer time off work for voting, paid or unpaid. Would you support a national holiday on Election Day?

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David A. Graham

David Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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