Duluth considering making Election Day a city holiday

Duluth is considering giving its employees a day off on Election Day. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

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Duluth is considering giving its employees a day off on Election Day. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

When Duluth Councilman Kirkland Carden learned that a city in Ohio had made Election Day a paid holiday for its employees, he said it was a stroke of genius.

“It’s important to increase access to voting,” Carden said. “I thought, ‘Why doesn’t Duluth do the same thing?’ ”

Carden also said city employees in Duluth didn't have as many paid holidays as other government workers. Duluth employees have nine paid holidays, federal workers have 10 and state employees have 12.

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The city has been evaluating whether it can afford to give employees a raise; if not, an extra paid day off could be a benefit they could add. Carden’s idea for an Election Day holiday has not yet been formally submitted as legislation, but was discussed during the council’s last work session.

“We could make an additional paid holiday a source of employee retention and make Duluth a more attractive place to work across the board,” he said.

The day off for most of Duluth’s 163 full- and part-time employees would also make a statement about the city’s values, Carden said.

“Holidays reflect values and priorities,” he said. “Just like we have MLK day, Veterans Day, Labor Day as city holidays, I think Election Day is a priority, and I think we should be a leader in Gwinnett County.”

City staff have determined the cost of an extra paid holiday would be about $7,000, attributed mostly to police and other public safety operations, Carden said. Essential personnel, like police and the city clerk’s office, which runs municipal elections, would still have to work on Election Day.

Atlanta is considering a similar ordinance, proposed by several of its council members. Atlanta City Councilman Matt Westmoreland also cited the example of Sandusky, Ohio, the city that inspired Carden, in his support for the day off. The price tag for Atlanta would be about $1 million.

In their consideration of the idea, Duluth plans to survey employees to see if they want Election Day off, or if another holiday would be more appealing.

“I don’t want to force something down someone’s throat,” Carden said.

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