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Should Election Day be a paid holiday?

VOTING 101: Ohio's 2016 election
Posted at 4:48 PM, Feb 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-04 18:05:50-05

SANDUSKY, Ohio — The city of Sandusky just made the bold move, swapping out Election Day as a paid holiday for its roughly 250 city workers in place of Columbus Day.

City Manager Eric Wobser said the change serves two purposes — first, to eliminate Columbus Day as a paid holiday with so much controversy surrounding it and second, to celebrate the democratic process and increase voter turnout.

“I think overwhelmingly people see Election Day as a day that we all can celebrate and be proud of so we wanted to make that move,” Wobser said.

All seven city commissioners voted unanimously to approve the move and all three unions representing city workers signed off on it. Wobser said the support from residents has been primarily positive.

“Certainly there are some people who say we’re rewriting history, we’re not honoring certain accomplishments of Columbus, but I would say that’s been a smaller group than those who have said this is a move in the right direction.”

Having the day off, Wobser said, will give workers time to cast their ballots and spend the day volunteering at the polls. The change goes into effect this year and is only for November elections.

Now, city leaders are hoping other municipalities and businesses will consider following their example.

“We think, over time, it might make it easier for people to vote,” Wobser said. The city currently has 13 paid holidays. Police and firefighters who work on the holiday will receive another paid day off.

Political analyst Tom Sutton said the top three reasons people give about not being able to go vote are arranging for childcare, transportation, and getting off work.

Sutton said there are a few arguments against Election Day as a holiday, including the fact that roughly half of Ohio voters cast their ballots early anyway. Still, Sutton said, whatever can increase turnout is a positive move.

“Anything that helps get people out to the polls is a good thing in my book, so if this makes that happen then it’s probably a good thing to think about,” Sutton said.

House Democrats recently introduced a bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday, which key Republican leaders pushed back against immediately.

A recent Pew Research Poll found that 71 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republican support Election Day as a national holiday.

News 5 has reached out to Ohio lawmakers for their stances and will update this story as we receive them.

Sen. Sherrod Brown sent the following statement:

“When I was Ohio’s Secretary of State, we worked to increase voter registration to make sure more citizens’ voices were heard. We set up registration sites in high schools, employment centers, food banks, DMVs, and even asked McDonalds to print voter registration forms on their placemats. In fact, you may even find registration forms at the Erie County Board of Elections with ketchup stains on them. We should be making it easier, not harder, for Ohioans to vote. Making Election Day a federal holiday is one of the many ways we can ensure Americans have equal access to our democracy and can make their voices heard.”