President Obama has officially endorsed the idea to make a national holiday set aside just for voting, in order to ensure that more Americans have the free time to exercise one of their greatest freedoms and responsibilities.
A Rutgers student journalist from The Daily Targum was at the White House as part of a college journalism program. While he was there, he requested a one-on-one interview with President Obama and the president was happy to oblige.
During the interview, Obama was asked about the relatively dismal voter turnout in America, compared to other countries.
President Obama’s response was nothing short of historic. A portion of the interview is below:
THE TARGUM: You have pointed out many times that voter turnout in the United States is very low, especially compared to other developed nations. But in many other countries, the government automatically registers voters and holds elections on days that are weekend days or national holidays. Do you think it’s time for the U.S. to follow their lead?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Absolutely. We are the only advanced democracy that makes it deliberately difficult for people to vote. And some of it has to do with the nature of our history and our Constitution, where we allow individual states to determine their own processes for structuring elections within certain boundaries.
I think that we know some states like Oregon are doing a much better job at extending mail-in voting, increasing tools like online voting that are safe and secure, give people flexibility over a long period of time, (and) early voting. And so everything we can do to make sure that we’re increasing participation is something that we should promote and encourage. Our democracy is not going to function well when only half or a third of eligible voters are participating.
The single most dramatic political change that could occur in this country—and the best way for us to relieve the frustrations that people feel around the political process—would be if we had greater participation that was more reflective of the day-to-day concerns that people have.
President Obama has made it clear for a long time now, that he would really like to do some things to increase political engagement among Americans. He’s already said he was on board with making voting mandatory, but this was his first yet endorsement of a national holiday to facilitate it.
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