Election Day; designating as a state holiday. (HB1362)

Introduced By

Del. Jim Scott (D-Merrifield) with support from co-patron Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


State holidays; Election Day. Designates the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, i.e., Election Day, as a legal holiday. Read the Bill »


01/18/2013: Failed to Pass in Committee


12/04/2012Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/09/13 13101572D
12/04/2012Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections
01/11/2013Assigned P & E sub: Campaign Finance Subcommittee
01/16/2013Subcommittee recommends referring to Committee on Appropriations
01/18/2013Passed by indefinitely in Privileges and Elections


stephen writes:

There is no reason except lazyness for this to be a holiday, and good to know virginia has lots of money to pay for this, and there for no reason to raise any taxes this year or next.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

To the extent to which the purpose of this bill is to increase turnout, the data show that it is not likely to do so. A 2008 study by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (a federal agency) found that those states that have made Election Day a holiday have no greater rate of turnout than those that do not. As somebody who had long advocated for making Election Day a holiday in order to increase turnout, this flies in the face of everything that I had assumed. I found the conclusions fascinating, and I cannot find any logical flaw in them.

Editor’s Pick
paul writes:

"...lazyness [sic]..." Yes! Single mothers or fathers holding down one or more jobs who have to choose between getting in long lines at polling places which are understaffed or have faulty equipment, or taking care of routine personal tasks (paying bills, grocery shopping, picking up a child from school, etc.), tasks which the rest of have the luxury of time and financial ability to do when we please, Yes, those single parents are lazy. Yes, workers who have to choose between a break for lunch so that they can continue to be productive afterwards or waiting in long lines, and possibly being docked, Yes, those workers are lazy. Yes, laziness, all laziness. Never a thought given to societal or economic constraints.

As for the cited 2008 EAC study, cheers, for actually taking the time to look for some analysis based upon data and forming an opinion from such. I do not share your surprise, though, at its conclusion. Here are some brief thoughts:

1. Note that the EAC report evaluation of voter turnout was States with holidays versus States without holidays, leading to a conclusion of negligible effect. It left unanswered, however, what the effect was within the States with holidays. That would have been a more reasonable question and would have (with all due respect to the EAC, whose resources and ability to obtain data I have not researched) produced a study with greater analytical rigor. There could be many variables that are State-based which a comparison solely between States with holidays and those without would either obscure or fail, all together, to recognize. In other words, this part of the EAC study seems to have been poorly designed, so it is unsurprising that it found that "... there appears to be no relationship..." between a holiday and turnout. Holidays may (or may not) have effected turnout within those nine States, which is the effect that a State law desires and should be fairly measured by.

2. The EAC study also comments on costs. We should understand their answer, however, in the context of the question "What value do we as a society place upon a fully functioning democracy?" Would you want to have elections systemically structured so that turnout would, in effect, be severely limited, just to save a few million dollars? What would the value of those results be? And what would be the value of the decisions made of how to allocate those saved tax dollars? The value of government and the measure to which we hold our elected officials accountable and truly approve or disapprove ballot initiatives increase with turnout.

3. Additionally, the EAC report correctly notes that State holidays do not equate to Federal holidays. So, many institutions and businesses chose not to close or were required to stay open on those days. Therefore, again, a more rigorous analysis would have questioned what the turnout effect was on the institutions and businesses that were compelled to close. The EAC report does correctly acknowledge that all the effects of a holiday can only be measured if it is so at both the Federal- and State-levels of government.

So what does this mean for HB1362? Is it still a reasonable measure? Yes. A right is not really protected if the opportunity to exercise it is systemically limited.

Would a holiday increase turnout and thus improve the content and quality of government? The EAC report did not answer this, and could not, by its design, have answered this. Their statement that more research is necessary is fair.

What, then, would increased turnout in Virginia mean statewide or nationwide? A clearer Virginia voice on those issues. A Virginia government, legislative body, legislative delegation, judiciary, and local Virginia governments whose elected officials are held accountable to a greater number of constituents. A Code of Virginia and local laws that are more representative of the ideas and choices of the persons they govern.

What if, after several elections have provided enough data, a rigorous analysis finds that the holiday has no or a negligible effect on turnout of voters where such an effect can be accurately measured? Then the law could be repealed. And we would need to look at ourselves in the mirror and admit that, perhaps, after all, the elevation of the significance of an election did not contribute to a change in voter apathy. Perhaps there are other issues at play. Or, perhaps, we, as a polity, actually are... lazy.

steven writes:

Why would anyone object to a day off of work?