Election Holiday Brings Democracy to the Streets in Puerto Rico
Puerto Ricans vote.
Puerto Rico averaged 79% voter turnout in its executive elections from 1979 to 2000. The current average on the continental US is just over 55%. At one point more than 95% of eligible voters in Puerto Rico were registered.
The differences between mainland American elections and those in Puerto Rico are pronounced. Chief among them, the Puerto Rican elections seem more a celebration of democracy than a solemn duty. Election day is a national holiday in Puerto Rico, and the vote is a culmination of weeks of frenzied activity on the part of candidates and parties. Automobile caravans shuttle politicians across the country. People gather in town squares to show their support and organize parades to encourage others to vote. The festivity surrounding the event is one of the many reasons cited for Puerto Rico’s high electoral turnout.
Simply making election day a national holiday could help make elections more accessible. The benefit is not simply that people have more time to head to the poles; it’s the increase in citizen engagement in the entire process. The incentive to vote will be social as well as civic. Voting will be more convenient, but above all, will be a greater part of the social fabric.
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