Bills introduced in the Georgia General Assembly would make Election Day a state holiday in an effort to increase turnout.
The legislation would create a holiday on the Tuesday in November when general elections are held, with all state offices closed.
State Rep. Donna McLeod said giving Georgians time off for voting would increase their involvement in democracy.
"The only way to make it work is through participation," said McLeod, a Democrat from Lawrenceville who introduced House Bill 782 last week. "It's a failure if we don't have the citizens participate in this country where they pay taxes."
But election officials say a holiday for voting would likely hurt those it’s intended to help, especially if schools, businesses and day care centers close along with state government offices.
“Making Election Day a holiday is the worst thing that can be done for blue collar and retail workers, especially those with children,” said Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs. “As schools will be closed, who will take care of the children of those workers who don’t get to take the holiday? And for hourly workers in large organizations, they lose a day’s wages.”
Georgia accommodates voters with three weeks of in-person early voting and no-excuse absentee voting, Fuchs said.
About 57% of registered voters cast ballots in the 2018 election for governor, a record for a Georgia midterm. Presidential election years have higher turnout, with 62% going to the polls in 2016 and a high of 76% turnout in 2008.
Thirteen states have made Election Day a holiday, including Kentucky, Louisiana, New York and West Virginia, according to the Pew Research Center.
The odds of the election holiday bill advancing are slim, but McLeod said she introduced it to send a message that the state should prioritize representative democracy. An identical measure, Senate Bill 283, is pending in the state Senate.