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'This Needs to Happen Nationally': Ohio City Ditches Columbus Day to Make Election Day Paid Holiday

The city of Sandusky, Ohio is swapping Columbus Day for Election Day starting in 2020, ending the yearly celebration of Christopher Columbus and instead ensuring all city workers can get to the polls

The city of Sandusky, Ohio this week announced it would swap Columbus Day for Election Day, giving all municipal workers a paid day off to vote. (Photo: Chuck Burton/Associated Press)

Heeding a call by progressives including voting rights and indigenous rights groups alike, the city of Sandusky, Ohio will swap Columbus Day for Election Day as a paid holiday—allowing all city workers to take Election Day off so they can vote.

Starting next year, Sandusky, which is home to 25,000 people and lies 60 miles west of Cleveland, will no longer recognize the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas every October, instead prioritizing residents' ability to get to the polls.

"Sandusky is proud to recognize Election Day as a holiday," officials wrote on the city's Facebook page. "What better way to celebrate the value of our employees and citizens than by removing barriers for them to participate in the greatest of American innovations, our democracy."

The government watchdog group Public Citizen was among those that praised the city for its decision, also calling for the change to be made at a national level.

City manager Eric Wobser told the Sandusky Register that shifting away from the "controversial" Columbus Day holiday, as several cities and towns have in recent years, was also important to the city.

In 2018 alone, about a dozen cities including San Francisco and Cincinnati renamed the second Monday in October "Indigenous People's Day," choosing to celebrate Native American history and heritage instead of the European explorer whose journey to the Americas began a genocide which killed an estimated 56 million native people, and centuries of ongoing violence perpetrated against Indigenous people.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has publicly called for Columbus Day to be eliminated nationally and for Election Day to be made a paid holiday instead.

A poll released last Election Day by The Hill and HarrisX found that most respondents were in favor of making the day a national holiday. Another survey by Pew Research showed that of Americans who did not vote in the 2016 elections, 14 percent didn't vote because their schedule didn't allow them to get to the polls—suggesting that a paid holiday would help many to vote.

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