Politics

NO JOKE: Almost Twice As Many People Shopped on Black Friday Than Voted In the 2014 Midterm Elections

November 29th 2014

By:
Matthew Segal

It's official. Almost TWICE as many people shopped on Black Friday than voted in the midterm elections. Data from the National Retail Federation predicted and the New York Times confirmed that 140.1 million people went shopping on Friday, whereas only 76.9 million people voted in this year's midterms.

Pundits are drunk with reasons why-- "the candidates weren't any good," "there was too much dark money spent," "the TV ads were overly negative," etc... yes, there's an element of truth to all of these reasons.

But one major reason that seldom gets enough credit is the inability for people to miss work or school, lending credence to the argument that Election Day should be a national holiday.

Pew non-voters

According to a new Pew Research Center report, roughly 35 percent of voters stated that scheduling conflicts with work or school precluded them from showing up on Election Day. (Granted a small number of these voters might use school or work as an excuse for being unmotivated, but still, such a high percentage of voters citing this reason is extremely alarming). 

What few people remember to ask (or demand to change) is why we even vote on Tuesday? This video explains it (hint: the reason dates back to the 1800's).

Comedian John Oliver recently noted how absurd it is that we celebrate Columbus Day, which millions of Americans have off, noting how Columbus "kidnapped native Americans and sold them into slavery, had his men slice them to pieces, and through disease and warfare, killed roughly half the population of Haiti."

So why don't we take off Election Day? After all, wouldn't a holiday where we exercise our prized democratic right of self-expression seem more logical than a day that commemorates a genocidal pillager? 

Here are some speculations why Election Day is not currently a holiday:

1. A holiday on Tuesday would interrupt the work week, which some business owners may feel hurts economic productivity.
2. If Election Day Tuesday became a holiday, Americans might also take Monday off too, ironically using the 4-day weekend to go on vacation instead of voting.
3. Politicians don't know how drastically turnout would change and what new types of voters would show up if Election Day became a holiday, and there is no greater anathema to an incumbent politician than an unpredictable new electorate.
(PS. I am guessing #3 is the winner). 

But there is another solution to all of this. Scrap the holiday plans, and move voting to a weekend. There is even some federal legislation, The Weekend Voting Act, which would move elections to Saturdays and Sundays so that people would no longer need to miss work.

OurTime.org and the Advancement Project released a report in 2013 that discussed how voting is becoming a time-tax, which can depress turnout, particularly among young people and voters of color who frequently lack the required identification to cast a ballot or whose precincts lack the voting machines necessary to accommodate higher participation. 

So it's clear that if we embrace the holiday or the weekend voting option, we can help mitigate the time tax. Expanding early voting can help too, which studies have shown proves effective at increasing turnout.