The Democratic majority of the 116th Congress wasted no time last month introducing a comprehensive democracy reform bill intended to strengthen election security, limit gerrymandering, and rewrite campaign finance laws.
One aspect of House Resolution (HR) 1, or the “For The People Act,” responds to voters’ demands for stronger voting protections, such as automatic voter registration and small-donor public financing of elections.
In addition to these measures, a key provision designed to increase voter participation is by making Election Day a paid federal holiday, as is Martin Luther King Day and Independence Day.
But that hasn’t stopped Sandusky, a town in north-central Ohio, which last week swapped Columbus Day for Election Day.
City Manager Eric Wobser told CNN:
“Some of it was just dumb luck as to the timing of the national conversation.”
Wobser explained that officials considered dropping Columbus Day years ago, but encountered opposition from unions disinterested in losing a paid holiday.
“We heard time and time again that people wanted to celebrate our diversity. In the last few years we’ve passed a city resolution which talks about welcoming immigrants. We worked with the LGBT community to pass anti-discrimination legislation. The subject of Columbus Day came up and Sandusky is actually based on an Iroquois word. Celebrating our diversity was one of the pillars of that strategic vision. Then last year we began union negotiations and obviously much had transpired as it relates to voting rights and access to voting and just thinking about our democracy in different ways. It fit into something we’ve been working on pretty actively over the last couple of years– to eliminate barriers and expand access to voting for our residents. These are unions and they fully understand the power of organizing. The idea of being off on Election Day made a lot of sense for them because they do want to make sure their workers are represented at the polls, that the interests of public sector unions are represented.
Erie County, in which Sandusky is located, already provides free rides to the polls.
The new legislation will take effect this November.
Sandusky joins at least a dozen cities to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.
In August 2017, New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced a 90-day commission review of all “symbols of hate” on NYC property, including the 76-foot statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle.
At a rally calling for the removal of J. Marion Sims, a surgeon some dub the father of modern gynecology who experimented on Black slaves without anesthesia, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said:
“I will wait for the commission, as I said Christopher Columbus is a controversial figure to many of us particularly in the Caribbean and I think that that has to be looked at, when you have to look at history we have to look at it thoroughly and clearly. I know some people may take offense to that but for many of us that come from the Caribbean islands, we see him as a controversial figure.”
“Everyone should acknowledge these are complex issues and that’s why it was important to put together a commission. I think the important thing to do is let that commission get going, let them take every nomination — if you will — from everyday New Yorkers, from elected officials, activists, look at the whole picture and come back with a plan.”
With Democrats in the majority, we will finally see real reforms that affect most of the country, about which most Americans care.
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