Democrats are going all in on voting rights ahead of the 2020 election.
This week, House Democrats introduced a bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday. Experts say that would increase voter turnout, especially among minority voters and low-income people who aren’t able to take off work to vote. It’s a popular idea. Business and civic leaders have been offering a similar proposal for years, and Congress considered bills to make it so in 2001, 2002 and 2005. Election Day is a day off in France, Australia, Mexico and other countries.
But it’s unpopular with one key demographic: Republicans. The GOP has supported efforts to restrict voting access in the country and is opposed to the Democrats' idea.
On Wednesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor to explain. “Just what America needs, another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work for, I assume, our folks — our colleagues on the other side, on their campaigns,” he said.
“This is the Democrat plan to restore democracy?” he continued. “A brand-new week of paid vacation for every federal employee who would like to hover around while you cast your ballot?”
Democrats quickly attacked McConnell and the GOP as undemocratic.
Many of his critics took things even further. They argued that McConnell’s response exposed part of the GOP’s election strategy: making voting difficult, especially for American workers. As MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes put it: “Nothing to me is more revealing of the core pathology of the modern Republican Party [than] the way that it sees widening access to the ballot and higher turnout as a threat.”
Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith made a similar point. “This wasn’t just McConnell admitting what we all knew to be true about the GOP,” he wrote. “It was the majority leader slandering people who work for the United States government and certainly don’t have a congressional microphone to defend themselves.”
The contrast is stark: Just days after Democrats selected Stacey Abrams, their 2018 Georgia gubernatorial nominee, to deliver the rebuttal to President Trump’s State of the Union address, in part because of her voting rights work, the GOP’s leader in the Senate came out against legislation that makes it easier to get more Americans to the ballot.
Democrats seem to think it’s a winning message, in more ways than one. Not only are voting rights popular, but also as the midterm 2018 elections showed, when turnout is high, Democrats do better. In fact, the states with the highest turnouts saw the left win big. Although Donald Trump ultimately won the presidency in 2016, that year had the highest turnout for a presidential election — and most votes went to the Democratic candidate.