The Boston City Council is pondering turning Election Day into a holiday in the city.
Councilor Matt O’Malley requested a hearing about the possible change saying having the day be a holiday will help increase voter turnout.
“Voting during a work day limits the participation of those who can’t afford to take a day off of work,” O’Malley said. “This is not a pie in the sky idea. We can absolutely change this.”
O’Malley wants the city to create a paid holiday for its workers or suggests they could remove an existing holiday like Columbus Day to accommodate the new Election Day holiday. He also mentioned that only 25 percent of Boston residents vote in municipal elections. According to O’Malley, other developed nations in the world have a higher voter turnout because they either vote on a weekend or have the day off.
“Robust voting participation is one of most important parts of a healthy and functioning democracy,” he said.
O’Malley pointed out that Boston has a history of creating special holidays in the city like Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day.
“I can think of no better way to honor the founding of our country than celebrate our right to vote,” he said.
Councilor Josh Zakim agreed with his colleague and believes voting on a Tuesday is “arbitrary.”
“The Commonwealth and the city of Boston could do much better in making it easier to vote,” he said.
Councilor Lydia Edwards believes Boston can lead the Commonwealth when it comes to voter turnout.
In @BOSCityCouncil today, I’m introducing a hearing order to establish an Election Day holiday. By making it easier for more to people vote: we’ll increase voter participation, strengthen citizens’ connection to government, & honor Boston’s history in winning the right to vote. pic.twitter.com/oRFTAEvLdF— Matt O’Malley (@MattOMalley) July 10, 2019
“This is a ripple effect,” she said. “When Boston leads this way it helps the entire Commonwealth to get excited about voting.”
O’Malley said while Boston only has jurisdiction over city and school employees, he hopes this potential change would inspire private companies to do the same.
“It would change voting culture in our city,” he said. “It would put the emphasis on the importance of voting and civic engagement.”
A hearing is set to be scheduled in the near future.