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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Calls for Election Day to Become a National Holiday, Replacing Columbus Day

Kevin Kelleher

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the politician who soon will become the youngest woman to serve in Congress, proposed replacing Columbus Day with a national voting holiday on Election Day.

Ocasio-Cortez’ proposal was made in that raucous battleground for U.S. politics, Twitter. The suggestion began when she tweeted a question during the weekend: “How is Columbus Day a holiday but Election Day not?”

In short order, David Martosko, U.S. political editor for Britain’s Daily Mail, weighed in to accuse Ocasio-Cortez of “angling for more vacation days.” That tweet struck many as a not-so-subtle reference to the inaccurate yet longstanding stereotype of Hispanics as lazy. Martosko’s tweet was quickly ratioed, with more than three comments for every retweet as of Monday afternoon, and with most of those comments excoriating Martosko.

For her part, Ocasio-Cortez responded with the suggestion to swap out Columbus Day for an Election Day holiday.

Since she defeated a ten-term incumbent during a June primary race in New York’s 14th district, Ocasio-Cortez has become something of a lightning rod for far-right media, including a now-deleted tweet that seemed to obsess over her clothing choices.

Other politicians such as Bernie Sanders have called for making Election Day a holiday. Although voter turnout in 2018 was the highest for a mid-term election in a century, some feel the 49% turnout figure is still low given that many people don’t take time off for work to vote.

Others are opposed to the practice, arguing that, while a voting holiday might give many white-collar workers and students a day off, people working in restaurants, hotels, and retail stores will still need to work that day. In some states, early voting and mail-in ballots are alternatives for those who need to work on Election Day.

In recent decades, some people have advocated replacing Columbus Day with a different national holiday, such as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.