Voting Day is a pressure-filled day for working parents. Not only do you have to manage drop-off, pick-up and a busy working day, now you have to throw voting into the mix. In history-making elections like this one, more people turn out to vote making long lines… and even more stress for the working mom. I’m sure if I had asked my boss for time to vote, she would have approved the time off. But then I’d be feeling pangs of guilt since my polling place is open for hours before I get to work and hours after I return home. And I know that many employers are not willing to allow employees to leave early or come in late so that they can fulfill their civic duty. I even heard of bosses sending out emails to their team telling them to “vote on their own time.”
For the last two years, I almost always voted via absentee ballot. For me, it was the only way to manage the juggle. There are days were I barely manage daycare drop off and pick-up with work meetings. And I’ve already admitted that I often don’t take a lunch. So voting was just one more thing to do on the list. Switching to voting by absentee ballot meant that I had plenty of time to research the candidates, measures, and propositions. Voting day no longer had to be the day of the election - but whatever day was convenient for me.
This year, I sent my ballot in the mail two weeks before the election. My spouse, a true procrastinator, hand-delivered his absentee ballot about 15 minutes before our local polling place closed on Tuesday night. He brought our son to the polling place and let him give the big envelope to the volunteer.
There is legislation in Congress to move Election Day from Tuesday to the weekend, in hopes of greater voter participation. Some states now offer early voting in addition to absentee voting. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have Voting Day a national holiday? Or have online voting? With 75% of Americans using the internet, online voting (with security problems resolved) could be revoluntionary for voter turnout. Regardless of the method in which we vote, I believe voting should be federally protected and employers should have to make reasonable accommodations to allow you to participate.
Personally, I don’t think voting needs to be a burden for people. Yes, it is our civic duty to vote and we should all make it our responsibility to vote. Still, by offering more flexible voting options and rewarding employers who encourage their employees to vote, we may get more citizens involved in the political process. And really, isn’t that what voting is all about?