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Most Americans support a federal holiday for voting, ABA survey finds

Two-thirds of Americans support the creation of a federal holiday for voting, according to the American Bar Association’s annual Survey of Civic Literacy, which also found strong support for other measures to make voting easier.

The ABA released the survey results Friday for Law Day, which will be observed on Sunday. The survey highlighted opinions on voting as the country prepares for midterm elections later this year.

The survey found that 66% of the public supported or strongly supported a federal holiday for elections, while 27% of respondents opposed it. A wide majority of respondents supported expanding hours at polling stations and increasing the number of polling stations, according to the results.

The ABA hosted a discussion of the results Friday. Amir Badat, the manager of the Voting Rights Defender and Prepared to Vote projects at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said a federal holiday for voting would allow more people to participate.

“Twenty-seven percent of people responding said they vote infrequently because of work or other responsibilities,” Badat said. “Twelve percent said they vote infrequently because voting is inconvenient, so I think making Election Day a federal holiday would help address those concerns.”

Requiring an ID to vote also received nearly 80% support in the survey. Smaller majorities said they support increasing the number of ballot drop boxes, instituting drive-through voting and allowing Election Day voter registration.

Phil Strach, a partner at the Nelson Mullins law firm in Raleigh, North Carolina, said at Friday’s discussion that the debate over voting became “convoluted” in 2020, in part because of changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic and because of the false claims of voter fraud circulated by then-President Donald Trump and his supporters.

“There’s like this whiplash effect on people when they see the rules being changed and they don’t really understand why, and then they hear stuff from their leaders that’s just downright crazy,” Strach said.

Maryland saw a number of changes, including the widespread use of mail-in voting and ballot drop boxes, during the 2020 election because of COVID-19.

The state has also recently faced controversy over redistricting, the once-a-decade process of redrawing political boundaries for state and local elections. After a legal battle that forced the postponement of the primary election until July, Maryland’s Court of Appeals upheld the legislative redistricting plan earlier this month.

The ABA survey found that nearly a third of respondents said they vote infrequently because they don’t believe their vote makes a difference.

Wendy Mariner, who previously chaired the ABA’s section on civil rights, noted that partisan gerrymandering can make those concerns a reality.

“Gerrymandering is one reason that a person’s vote will not, in fact, make a difference,” she said. “Fair, nonpartisan redistricting is a critical prerequisite to making every vote count.”