Italian explorer and colonist Christopher Columbus is losing popularity in America. Sandusky, Ohio, is the latest city to announce it will no longer observe Columbus Day as a holiday, according to The Hill. Instead, municipal workers in the city will get to take off Election Day in November.
The city’s decision merges two of the top ongoing debates about national holidays: Many people have pushed for Election Day to be made a federal holiday to ensure that all Americans have the chance to get to the polls and vote. At the same time, many cities have stopped celebrating Columbus Day, citing Columbus's abuse of indigenous peoples.
“We are swapping [the holidays] to prioritize Voting Day as a day off so that our employees can vote,” city manager Eric Wobser told the Sandusky Register. “It’s also because Columbus Day has become controversial, and many cities have eliminated it as a holiday.”
In lieu of Columbus Day, which is held the second Monday of October, some cities have opted for alternative ceremonies instead. Seattle recognizes Indigenous Peoples Week; Los Angeles has a Life Before Columbus Festival; and Crazy Horse, South Dakota, hosts a Native American Day.
As for Election Day, some politicians and civil rights groups say the day should be made a federal holiday as a way of addressing America’s low voter turnout. The U.S. wouldn’t be the first country to do so, either. Residents of France, Mexico, Israel, and South Korea already get the day off to vote, and dozens of other countries hold their elections on the weekend.
According to USA Today, voter turnout peaked in the 19th century, from the 1840s to the 1890s. At that time, Americans were granted a day off from work, and celebrations and public gatherings were frequently arranged. "Even children too young to vote were involved in these festivities, which got them in the practice of civic participation and instilled a sense that it was important and fun,” Holly Jackson, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, told the paper.
However, as Slate points out, the issue of voter turnout is a little complicated, and it's hard to predict whether a national holiday would actually help drive people to the polls.
[h/t The Hill]