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Holiday Activism: City of Sandusky, Ohio, Swaps Out Columbus Day for Voting Day

The news media has been buzzing all week after learning that the city of Sandusky, Ohio, has agreed to forgo their long Columbus Day weekend for an official Voting Day holiday from this year on. Unanimously passed by the city legislature at the end of January, this resolution also had the support of unions that represented Sandusky police officers, firefighters and municipal employees.

Sandusky agreed to this holiday exchange in order to “prioritize Voting Day as a day off so that our employees can vote,” said Eric Wobser, the city manager, to the New York Times. He also cited the public’s reassessment of what Columbus Day represents to America — colonization and genocide of an existing world, rather than a “discovery” of a New World — and the city’s historical ties to the Underground Railroad and the civil rights movement as contributing factors in this trade-off. “[If] we can continue to play a role in spurring some type of a national dialogue as it relates to voting rights, I think we’d be really proud of that.”

The city had initially suggested putting an end to Columbus Day in 2015, but Sandusky unions did not want to simply give up a paid holiday. The reintroduction of the proposal this year with the addition of a paid holiday on Election Tuesday, though, was met with civic enthusiasm. “We took it and afforded it as an opportunity to get all our employees and union members out to vote,” said a union president to the city’s local paper, the Sandusky Register. “Democracy’s very important.”

Holiday on Election Day Will Likely Increase Voter Turnout

While a dozen or so states have passed legislation that treats Election Day as a paid holiday, along with hundreds of companies, Sandusky is the first city to have embraced this democratic measure. According to a survey conducted by the Census Bureau following the 2016 election, over two and a half million registered voters were too busy to cast their ballots, a figure that suggests that an Election Day holiday would expand election access to the public at the national level.

Democrats in congress have recently begun a renewed push to make Election Day a federal holiday, but there is vocal resistance among GOP congressmen who have characterized this proposal as a “power grab” by the left, an accusation that suggests their vested interest in voter suppression. While Sandusky is a Democratic-leaning city, Wobser emphasized to the Washington Post that Voting Day would serve to make it “easier for [people] to exercise their right to vote tomorrow than maybe it was yesterday,” rather than swinging future elections toward a party that would benefit from increased civic involvement.

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