Election Day should be a federal holiday
November 12, 2012 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
A federal holiday for Election Day could create a more festive atmosphere -- and more time to vote.
(CNN) -- I know some 800,000 people retweeted that "four more years" image of Barack and Michelle Obama. But a different and much-less-discussed tweet caught my eye on Election Day:
Explain to me how that's not a genius idea?
Of course, it's not an entirely original one. The actor who plays Dwight Schrute on "The Office" made a video about the subject earlier this year. But the best argument I found in favor of an Election Day holiday was in the pages of The Atlantic in 1998. Way back in those Backstreet Boy times, Martin Wattenberg wrote that Election Day should be combined with Veterans' Day to create Veterans' Democracy Day.
"This would send a strong signal about the importance our country attaches to voting," he wrote. "And what better way could there be to honor those who fought for democratic rights than for Americans to vote on what could become known as Veterans' Democracy Day?"
Veterans' Day is celebrated on November 11, which is Sunday this year. (Federal employees have Monday, November 12 off work). The holidays could be combined, Wattenberg says, on the second Tuesday in November.
I love Wattenberg's idea about Veterans' Day because of the message it sends to voters.
For the past month or so, I've been writing about Hawaii's distinction as the state with the lowest voter turnout rate in the 2008 election (and possibly in 2012, but the numbers are still coming in). For one piece of the project, I asked the People of the Internet to send messages to six nonvoters in the Aloha State, trying to convince them to vote. Three of the six caved to the social media pressure, and one, Michael Remen, told me he voted simply because of one of the messages he received. It came from a commenter on CNN iReport's Facebook page:
"Send him a free ticket to Arlington Cemetery and (show) him how many reasons there are to vote, since all those there died for that right, here and abroad."
"I thought that was a really powerful statement," Remen said, "and it made really good sense."
Aligning Voting Day with Veterans' Day not only makes logistical sense -- lines might be shorter if not everyone ran to the polls at the start and finish of the work day -- but also symbolic sense.
It might serve as a reminder to people like Remen that veterans have given their lives to protect the right to vote in the United States. The least we can do in return is honor their sacrifice by casting a ballot. And, as that tweet suggested, an Election Day barbecue wouldn't be so bad, either.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John D. Sutter.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
The goal of this news experiment is to use the power of the Internet -- with your help -- to push for change in places that need it most.
Elle Cochran grew up far too enchanted by Maui's rocky coastline and beach-bum lifestyle to care a thing about politics and voting.
October 24, 2012 -- Updated 2320 GMT (0720 HKT)
In 2008, Hawaii had the lowest voter turnout in the U.S. How come? And can they Change The List for the 2012 election?
October 31, 2012 -- Updated 1736 GMT (0136 HKT)
There are many ways to encourage someone to vote -- from shaming to calling on the power of history. Here are some arguments you submitted.
Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout rate in the nation. Who has the highest? Check this list to see -- and find how your state ranks.
October 29, 2012 -- Updated 1827 GMT (0227 HKT)
Kawika Crowley lives, works and runs his U.S. congressional campaign out of a beat-up white minivan.
These six Hawaii residents don't plan to vote in November. Use social media to help us convince them to make their voices heard.
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1352 GMT (2152 HKT)
Help us convince Paul to vote for the first time. Post messages or videos and tweet the link with the hashtag #CTL1. Here are the best so far.
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1357 GMT (2157 HKT)
Michael Remen doesn't plan to vote because of polling place issues on his island. Tell him why his vote matters Tag the message #CTL2.
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1400 GMT (2200 HKT)
Nani Teruya considers the U.S. government to be illegitimate in Hawaii. Send her a message and tag it #CTL3.
October 24, 2012 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Soon to be 18, Skyler Gayhart said he feels to young to be able to cast a ballot. Take a look at the meesages readers have sent him. And send your own.
October 24, 2012 -- Updated 1553 GMT (2353 HKT)
One year, Nanci Munroe found out the new president while she was driving to her polling place. Tell her that her vote still matters.
October 24, 2012 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Tell his University of Hawaii student why it's important for young people to participate in our democracy. Tag messages #CTL6.
From surfer apathy to an ugly history, a bite-sized look at the problem.
Some groups -- the educated and the rich, for example -- vote at much higher rates than the rest. Here's a look at the data.
Joe Heaukulani. 36, has a remarkable story of transformation. He didn't vote at all until 2010 -- and now he's inspiring others to care.
Share this image on Tumblr to thank people in Hawaii for voting this November.
It's public record whether you voted or not. So with records in hand, we searched out some non-voters. Not to shame -- but to encourage.
These people who pledged to vote for the first time are the ones who can bump Hawaii off the bottom of the list. Make your pledge here.
Sam Slom is the only Republican state senator in Hawaii. "I go to work everyday," he says, "and I'm outnumbered 24 to one."
Around statehood, in 1959, more than 90% of registered voters in Hawaii went to the polls. So what happened?
Social studies teacher Jason Duncan is trying to do his part to kill voter apathy. "One of my responsibilities is to create an informed citizenry."
A look at voters and non-voters in the Aloha State.
Officials on the Big Island of Hawaii are working to make sure the November election goes smoothly after problems plagued the primary.
Let your friends know you will vote on November 6. It will encourage them to do the same.
U.S. House candidate Kawika Crowley says he lives out of this van, which also serves as his campaign headquarters.
Nick Fancher, 18, attends the school Obama did. He's not sure who will get his vote, but he has ideas about getting others to turn out.
Maui's mayor wants everyone on the island to participate in elections. A district in West Maui has the lowest turnout rate.
Keanu Sai, a professor at the University of Hawaii, has a unique idea involving a transitional government for the "occupied" state.
Check out this Facebook app by the news site Civil Beat. If you're in Hawaii, the app can teach you about local candidates.