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Ashton Adams A lifelong resident of Kansas, Ashton Adams is a junior at the University of Kansas where she is majoring in Global and International Studies with a minor in African Studies. She actively works to...
Where do young people come down on questions of faith, values, and public life? How do they relate their values to public policy issues including education, economic inequality, and the environment? These questions, critically important for the 2012 election, are at the center of a campus conversation being organized by the Berkley Center and Georgetown University. This blog features an ongoing conversation about these issues between students selected as Millennial Values Fellows through a national competition. You can read and comment on their blogs here.

To learn more about the project, visit the Campus Conversation on Values page.

OTHER POSTS

Millennials on Social Media and Politics

November 15, 2012

Millennials on Social Issues and Diversity

November 12, 2012

Hira Baig (Rice) on Why the Presidential Election Matters to Millennials

November 7, 2012

Millennials on Religion and Interfaith Work

November 7, 2012

Ryan Price (Drake) on E Pluribus Duo

November 6, 2012

Mohammad Usman (DePauw) on Unpredictable Millennials

November 5, 2012

Millennials on Affirmative Action Policy

November 3, 2012

Seth Warner (Vassar) on What Happens as the "God Gap" Widens

November 2, 2012

Josina De Raadt (Dordt) on How Social Media Is Like Wii Bowling

October 31, 2012

Zachary Yentzer (Arizona State) on the Next Greatest Generation

October 29, 2012

Brice Ezell (George Fox) on Post-Racial America? Race, Millennials, and the 2012 Election

October 25, 2012

Tyler Bishop (Vanderbilt) on a Future of Hashtags #whatitmeansforus

October 23, 2012

Brice Ezell (George Fox) on How the People Can Heal a “Divided,” Partisan Nation

October 4, 2012

Hira Baig (Rice) on Religion and American Democracy

October 4, 2012

Tyler Bishop (Vanderbilt) on How It’s All About Relatability: Voter Turnout

October 3, 2012

Josina De Raadt (Dordt) on Mistaking Politics for a Hollywood Blockbuster

October 2, 2012

Mohammad Usman (DePauw) on the Internet Solution

October 1, 2012


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Ashton Adams (Kansas) on Declaring Election Day a Federal Holiday

September 27, 2012

How can we fix our democracy? The question is a deceptively simple one predicated on a dangerous assumption – that is, that our democracy is in fact broken. Declaring our democracy dangerously diseased is a national pastime these days, but such a sensationalist statement requires supporting evidence. Therefore, to answer the former we must address the latter.
Using other healthy democracies worldwide as a benchmark by which we might evaluate our own system, it is easy to get discouraged about our domestic conditions. A comparison between such basic national statistics as voter turnout rates paints a dismal picture. The United Kingdom has seen a steady climb in voter turnout over the past three elections, with over sixty five percent voting in the 2010 parliamentary elections. France’s recent presidential elections saw an even higher turnout of eighty percent, remarkably a bit of a drop off when one looks at their 2007 turnout of eighty-three percent. For all our American handwringing, it seems that socialism does not in fact sap a society of its democratic fervor. In comparison, the United State’s posted voter participation rate in the latest federal election, standing at just over forty-one percent, betrays our public as positively apathetic. In fact, US voter turnout has not topped sixty three percent in a federal election since 1908.

Of course, this is just one measurement of a democracy’s health that ultimately fails to tell us about a variety of other factors. In fact the singular focus on elections as the determinant of any state’s democracy is a well-documented and lamented aspect of a phenomenon known as “electoral fallacy.” Declaring the democratic republic of the United States broken simply based on low voter turnout rates, therefore, is rather like Chicken Little extrapolating an apocalypse from a falling acorn. But just as we must not dismiss elections and voter turnout entirely, we also cannot give the US a clean bill of democratic health without considering these factors, for they measure citizen participation – that notoriously difficult to measure quality on which any democracy depends. Thus we must still work to increase voter participation, which will take more than good intentions. We must make a concerted national effort to establish voting as a cultural norm.

To this end, I propose that the United States declare the federal Election Day a federal holiday. While it is impossible to ensure that citizens will take the time out of a holiday to wait in line to vote – even when legally obligated, a significant number of voters around the world still choose to take the punishment rather than schedule the time – giving citizens greater personal time reduces the opportunity cost of voting and reduces the burden of voting. Most importantly, it reinforces the notion that voting is an important action in our society and should not be abandoned when other duties beckon. This increased engagement in our democratic process may not provide a cure-all for our country, but it will provide valuable public momentum for improvement.