America should move Presidents Day to Election Day as a means to increase voter participation and celebrate America’s democracy.
Doing so would truly honor our former Presidents as the vast majority recognized that widespread citizen participation in the electoral process and the peaceful transition of power from one Administration to the next are prerequisites of a healthy representational democracy.
Election Day is statutorily mandated to occur on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, thus occurring any time between November 2-8.
Many Americans find it logistically difficult to vote on a Tuesday, when they also must work a full-time job, take their kids to/from school, assist in after school activities, help their kids do their homework, and the myriad of additional tasks it takes to keep a household and family functional. Making Election Day a federal holiday will assuredly increase voter participation among a large segment of America’s hardworking class.
The History of Presidents Day
Presidents Day, which was originally called Washington’s Birthday, was celebrated on the birthday of our first President, February 22.
In 1971 the celebration of Washington’s Birthday was moved by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and an executive order issued by President Nixon to the third Monday in February, which fell between Washington’s and Lincoln’s (Feb 12) birthdays.
The Uniform Monday Holiday Act also either moved or established as federal Monday holidays: Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day.
In 1978 Veterans Day was moved back to November 11, its original day, celebrating the end of World War I.
Clearly, there is a lot of regulatory flexibility as to the day we choose to celebrate Presidents Day.
Many states have renamed “Washington’s Birthday” to “Presidents Day” or another of the 15 variations, while 3 states celebrate the holiday outside of February and 9 states do not celebrate the holiday in any variation.
Some opponents of this idea will disingenuously argue that moving Presidents Day chronologically 105 days earlier, will somehow destroy America’s democracy. Those naysayers should be ignored as neither logic, truth, nor honesty is on their side.
As we currently celebrate Veterans Day (the last day of WWI) and Thanksgiving in November, some may contend that moving Presidents Day will result in “too many federal holidays in November.” To them, I would point out that New Mexico already celebrates Presidents Day in November.
We could rationally deal with their concern by simultaneously moving Veterans Day to Election Day, as our Veterans are the primary reason we have elections in America. Politics being what it is, it is a virtual certainty that opponents of moving Veterans Day will accuse the proponents of being anti-Veteran. To minimize this political liability, I would not advocate moving Veterans Day.
The Time is Now or Never
The future of our nearly 2.5-century experiment as a liberal, multicultural, representative democracy hangs in the balance. As all Trumplicans and most Republicans have demonstrated that they will actively undermine any initiative which would make it easier for people to vote, this change must be implemented before the November 2022 election as the political tea leaves suggest both the House and the Senate could be taken over by the Trumplicans and Republicans, respectively.
Thus, I call on my federal representatives, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Ed Markey, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and President Joseph Biden to immediately move the day we celebrate Presidents Day to the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This should be an easy political task for the Democratic Party, including Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joseph Manchin, to support.
America’s democracy and America’s working-class will thank you.
Published: February 21, 2022, Minor revisions: 2/21/2022