State Assembly bill proposes making Election Day statewide holiday

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A piece of legislation designating Election Day a statewide holiday was introduced in the state Assembly on Feb. 15.

Assembly Bill 674, which was co-authored by Assemblymembers Evan Low, D-Campbell, and Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, would establish an Election Day holiday on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in the month of November each year a statewide or national election takes place. Both authors of the bill aim to create a more representative electorate by eliminating financial obstructions that keep some workers from taking unpaid time off to vote, allowing more members of low-income communities to participate in the election process.

“An open and accessible electoral process is the cornerstone of a representative government, but rampant voter suppression efforts nationwide threaten to undermine our democracy,” Low said in a press release. “California remains steadfast in our commitment to civic engagement and we will not tolerate efforts to suppress or intimidate voters.”

Berkeley City Council members expressed their support of AB 674, noting that making Election Day a statewide holiday would increase voter accessibility to the polls.

“Anything to make it easier for people to vote is something I support,” said District 5 Councilmember Sophie Hahn. “It is a hassle to vote before or after work, especially if you’re a working parent and have to drop your kids off, pick them up, serve them dinner or if you work two jobs. The logistics of getting to the polls are complicated when they fall on a work or school day.”

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said City Council has written an item addressing AB 674, which will be discussed at its March 14 meeting. Hahn and Mayor Jesse Arreguín have added themselves as co-sponsors of the bill, according to Worthington.

Students of voting age at UC Berkeley have also expressed their support for AB 674. ASUC External Affairs Vice President André Luu said having the day off on Election Day would allow for greater voter turnout.

“This bill would expand accessibility for all citizens to vote and be civically engaged in elections,” Luu said. “I do not see any detriment to the bill. I think this is a model that would benefit citizens nationwide. … This model is crucial not only to California but to set a precedent nationwide.”

Shahana Farooqi, a sophomore and intended public health major, said the bill might be beneficial on the condition that businesses compensate their employees on Election Day.

“Although it would be one other holiday that companies would have to compensate their workers for, I think it would be a good tradeoff because hopefully it would increase voter turnout rate, which I think, after this election, has turned out to be very important,” Farooqi said.

The bill will be presented in the California State Assembly on March 18.

Contact Ananya Sreekanth at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @asreekanth_dc.