When It Comes To Election Day, Could Cincinnati Soon Follow In Sandusky's Footsteps?

Feb 26, 2019

Cincinnati City Council will vote on a couple measures Wednesday that could make Election Day in November a holiday for city workers.  

Councilmember Greg Landsman, who supports the idea, said it's about increasing voter participation.

"It's not entirely clear, you know, all of the things we ought to be doing, but this is certainly one of them," he said.

One proposal would ask city labor unions to trade President's Day for Election Day. Councilmember Chris Seelbach said that idea may not be received well.

"I think what's going to happen though in talks with the administration and some of my colleagues is that this will likely lead to allowing employees to pick whether they want Election Day off or President's Day off," Seelbach said. "I think that's the direction our bargaining units would like."

A motion also up for a vote would ask city administrators for a report on alternative ways to make Election Day a holiday.  

Sandusky, Ohio, recently decided to give employees Election Day off instead of Columbus Day. But in Cincinnati, city employees use the Columbus Day holiday on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Supporters say the idea is to increase voter participation. But some opponents say Ohio residents have ample opportunities to cast ballots in advance of Election Day.

"This is a solution in search of a problem,'' Alex Triantafilou, chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, said in an interview with WVXU earlier this month. "It's a political stunt."

People in Cincinnati – and all over Ohio – already have 198 hours of early voting available to them, Triantafilou said.

But Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld, who also supports the Election Day holiday, said in an earlier interview there is nothing partisan about this.

"We have Democrats, Republicans, independents – all kinds of folks – working for the city,'' Sittenfeld said. "They'd all be free to do what they want on Election Day. The board of elections is always looking for more inside poll workers. And, as far as voting is concerned, this is just another way to make it easier for people to vote."

Several states have already made this a holiday for government employees. Ohio and Kentucky are not among them. (Indiana, however, is.) And Congress has several times considered declaring Election Day a holiday, including a bill introduced this year by House Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called this a power grab by the Democrats.

WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson contributed to this story.