OUTDOOR RETAILER Patagonia will close all its stores on Election Day so that its employees can vote. Ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber will offer free and discounted rides to polling places on Nov. 6. Meat company Tyson Foods has launched its first campaign to get employees registered to vote. Cava restaurants will give its workers two hours of paid time off to vote, and online marketplace WeddingWire has made Election Day a “no meetings” day to make it easier for employees to vote. Social media companies such as Snap and Instagram have used their sites to encourage young adults to register and vote.
Good that these companies are trying to boost voter turnout for next month’s critical midterm elections. We hope they succeed. But their efforts, no matter how laudatory, raise the question of why the United States — which consistently has voter turnout far below that of most other developed countries — puts up so many unnecessary barriers to voting. One such barrier is holding elections on a workday squeezed into the middle of a week.
Nearly every other modern democracy holds elections on weekends or makes Election Day a national holiday. The United States’ refusal to follow that model — a suggestion from the 2001 National Commission on Federal Election Reform chaired by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford — has not only depressed voter participation but has also resulted in a skewed electorate. People who are retired or in salaried jobs have fewer problems finding the time to vote than those who make an hourly wage or have scheduling conflicts with jobs or school.
Recognizing that this is a problem that hurts U.S. democracy, a record number of U.S. companies — 44 percent, up from 37 percent in 2016 — report this year that they will carve out time for their workers to vote. That is unquestionably a step in the right direction, but even better is the suggestion from a letter writer to this page to designate Veterans Day, already a federal holiday but not universally observed as a day off, as both a formal holiday and Election Day. “What better tribute to veterans, in symbolic and practical terms,” wrote S.R. Cohen, “than exercising the precious right to vote for which so many gave their lives?”