Editorial: Michigan doesn't need an election holiday

The Detroit News

Michigan Democrats seem to be forgetting that citizens now have more options to ease voting than ever before. Casting a ballot no longer has to wait to Election Day, so the idea that workers should get the day off to vote is obsolete.

Still, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson joined the holiday chorus in encouraging state businesses to give their workers the day off on Election Day.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, left, and Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, talks about the upcoming elections and early absentee voting earlier this year.

Benson praised Wayne State University for making Nov. 3 a holiday for employees, saying that’s the direction the state should be moving in. 

Why would they have to do that? In 2018, voters approved a measure that guarantees (in the state Constitution) a variety of voting rights, including no-reason absentee voting, same-day voter registration and straight-ticket voting.

It’s extremely easy to have a ballot mailed right to your home, vote at your leisure and then return it. 

More:Michigan workers should get Election Day off, Benson says

But even for those who prefer the camaraderie of waiting in line and casting their vote on Election Day, it’s certainly not a full-day affair. 

Jake Rollow, spokesman for Benson, says the secretary of state wants to encourage not only more citizens to vote but to participate as poll workers. That is a need in many communities, particularly cities like Detroit that have demonstrated the shortfalls of not adequately training poll workers, or not having enough who volunteer to help. 

“Secretary Benson supports the many ways employers can encourage and support their employees to engage civically,” Rollow said in an email. “Increased voter turnout is one potential benefit of employers providing election day off.”

Yet creating a blanket holiday seems over the top, and some studies that have looked into the impact of making Election Day a holiday have found it’s not effective in boosting turnout. 

According to a 2014 article from the National Conference of State Legislatures, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission found: “When comparing the nine states that have an Election Day state holiday with all the other states that do not, as well as with the United States as a whole, there appears to be no relationship between an Election Day holiday and higher voter turnout.” 

That’s not stopping Democrats at the state and federal level from promoting this idea, however. 

In the Michigan Legislature, Democrats have introduced a bill that would make regularly scheduled election days in May, August and November state holidays. Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown, the bill sponsor, has said that businesses often follow the lead of state holidays when giving employees the day off.

Similarly, the Democratic-controlled Oakland County Board of Commissioners recently added Election Day as a holiday for its 5,000 employees, giving them a total of 14 holidays in election years. 

More:Editorial: Oakland County should say ‘no’ to freebies

That’s a hit to productivity and an added burden for taxpayers. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last year called the federal effort a “power grab” by Democrats: “Just what America needs, another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work, I assume [for] our colleagues on the other side,” he told his Senate caucus.

He makes a good point. 

Michigan political leaders should not be encouraging the kind of lost productivity that would result in giving workers Election Day off, especially when citizens have so many other ways to cast their vote.