I talked this morning with Roy Benson, the Bay Area man whom Secretary of State Debra Bowen cleared this week to start circulating for petition signatures his ballot measure to make Election Day a state holiday every other year.
“I’ve been working on this for many years, and its time to get the word out,” said Benson. “It’s very important especially during these times, these are critical times.”
The Election Day Holiday initiative, according to the Attorney General’s summary, “establishes an Election Day state holiday as the Tuesday following the first Monday in November during even-numbered years.” The summary of the Legislative Analyst’s and state Finance Director’s estimate of fiscal impact is that it would cost the state less than $20 million every two years.
Benson said that’s a small price to pay for increased voter turnout and a deeper pool of polling volunteers, which would make the electoral process more transparent.
“It’s not about changing the landscape of voting, it doesn’t benefit any party, it doesn’t favor this issue or that issue, it doesn’t benefit anybody except the voter, and what’s wrong with that?,” he said.
I asked whether he thought business groups might oppose such a thing because it would mean another paid holiday for which they have to foot the bill. “Do they say that about other holidays?” Benson responded, noting this holiday would be a worthwhile celebration of “one of the most dynamic, inspirational constitutions the world has ever seen.” That’s the kind of democratic ideal the United States tries to promote around the world, he added, and we should be a role model.
Benson has until Sept. 1 to collect signatures of 504,760 registered voters – the number equal to five percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 gubernatorial election – in order to qualify his initiative for the ballot.
So far, he said, he has no financial backing or volunteer force. “We’re just getting the word out … “I guess you would say it’s a grassroots type of situation at this point.”
This is Benson’s second bite at the apple; he circulated a similar initiative in 2008, but didn’t get enough signatures.