The Challenge

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How might we design an accessible election experience for everyone? read the brief

Contribution

Election Day as a National Holiday!

An election day holiday = more time, more flexibility + more fun!
I was living in Brazil during their 2010 Presidential election and the country has the *brilliant* idea of making election day a national holiday. Many other countries have a similar approach and hold elections on Saturdays and Sundays. Contrast this with the U.S. where election day Tuesday can be a tad stressful as you try to rush to the voting booth before work or sneak out of the office early at the end of the day to make it to the polling station before it closes. Making election day a national holiday makes voting less onerous, more exciting and fun - and following Brazil's model - a bit of a party and a shared/collective experience!

Thinking about the questions of "what helps citizens participate and what gets in their way?" - I particularly like Brazil's approach because it makes voting more accessible to broader segments of the population - with most businesses and stores closed - employees no longer have to worry about doing their work AND voting - they can just focus on voting and watching the elections results. Plus when people have a more flexible schedule on election day - they can more easily devote the time to helping those (e.g., elderly or disabled) who might need a bit more assistance getting to the polls.

image source: Intel.com
Mission #3 Understand the Democratic Process

Comments

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Carla

February 19, 2012, 16:06PM
Simon Morfit of Pomona? Fancy seeing you here! Hope you're doing well.

I'm happy to see so many examples from Brazil in this challenge (I'm a citizen but have never voted there).

As you and others have suggested, making voting day a holiday does make the act of voting easier. This, coupled with other inspirations aimed at simply informing people about existing services for disabled voters could have a huge effect on alleviating the stress and hassle of voting for all people.

Does anyone know of examples of voting dress rehearsals to encourage people to know their polling station and what documents to bring? It would be a tremendous effort and cost but could also help officials learn how to better address the needs of the disabled and, as Jakob and Campbell mentioned below, help celebrate the spirit of democracy.

So...two holidays?

Zhou Joseph

February 16, 2012, 01:18AM
Singapore has voting day as a holiday day.That does help on encouraging participation.

Luis Rosenthal

February 15, 2012, 00:20AM
Great stuff Simon. It's actually a great point the fact that the elections day - in many countries - is during the week. It really doesn't help people to get to the polling stations! Being a brazilian I always found that quite odd here in the UK and an unnecessary complicating factor for voters.

I guess regardless of being a national holiday or simply scheduling elections on a Sunday - when most businesses are closed anyway - it naturally creates this "democracy day" atmosphere that you mentioned.

Even in a country where a large part of the population rarely discusses politics like Brazil, the candidates, parties and government proposals become the main topic of the day. Great inspiration!

dema Mittal

February 04, 2012, 16:35PM
The other benefit I see of this idea is that voters will get time to talk to friends/family to gather more details on the candidates before casting their vote. Lisa Ball talks about the same.

http://www.openideo.com/open/voting/inspiration/information-of-candidate-for-meaningful-voting/

Jakob Uhlin

February 03, 2012, 13:59PM
Timing seems important. The holiday approach also highlights its importance, a celebration for democracy!

A workaround, not as celebrating: I personally used the possibility to vote in advance in Sweden at a pop-up voting centre on a busy street the upcoming week of the actual voting day.

Ting-Han Huang

February 03, 2012, 04:59AM
Interesting post! I would be more than happy to have an election holiday!
Timing of the holiday might affect people's motivation to vote as well - If the election holiday is on Monday or Friday, some people may view it as a 3 day getaway. If it's on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, people may be more willing to stay and vote.

An Old Friend

February 02, 2012, 00:28AM
What a great common sense solution! Not only does it free up people's time from their job, but it also gives people an opportunity (the time) to volunteer driving a voting truck, shuttling the elderly to voting booths etc.

A second benefit of this idea is that children would not have school and would be more exposed to the electoral process. It helps create a future generation of informed voters. Whether it be through tagging along with mom and dad, or volunteering themselves to help others get to the booth. The trickle down effect might be really strong when considering future participation.

Thirdly, after almost two years of debates and primary elections, (which seem to have a growing negative tone). A holiday is something to celebrate. I can see friends having a pre-vote lunch or post-vote cocktail hour. All in all, i think you are right in that voting should be something worth celebrating with A HOLIDAY!

Ting-Han Huang

February 03, 2012, 04:32AM
Campbell, the second benefit really caught my eye! Giving children the opportunity to observe the election process could be more powerful than trying to talk about the importance of election inside the classroom.

Anne-Laure Fayard

February 01, 2012, 22:16PM
Interesting post about the timing of the elections. It reminded me Jeroen's post on voting in public transports: http://www.openideo.com/open/voting/inspiration/voting-in-public-transport/
We also had a conversation in the comments as I was noting that while in France, the elections are on weekends, I have memories of weekends with very low participation because people go away for the weekend. :-)
However, I think it does make more sense than during week days and it indeed offer more chances for support for helping others.
Thinking about the context of voting as part of the election process is important indeed.
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