SANDUSKY, Ohio– The city of Sandusky is working to eliminate barriers to voting by making Election Day a paid city holiday for all non-essential employees.
“Every November we will have an election, but for the first time in the city’s history it will be a municipal holiday,” Sandusky City Manager Eric Wobser said.
The change first announced in February made national headlines, amid growing calls across the country to increase voter turnout.
“This is a small thing but it started a big conversation,” Wobser said.
Part of the conversation involves the growing controversy around Columbus Day. Wobser said the change was first discussed with employee unions in 2016 and revisited in 2018.
Exchanging Columbus Day for Election Day as a municipal holiday was approved unanimously by the city commission earlier this year, according to Wobser.
“We heard that a lot of people didn’t like the celebration of Columbus Day and so we thought that was a change that we could make to one, show that we are listening to all of our citizens,” Wobser said.
Although there is no presidential election this year, Sandusky Transit officials are working to get voters to the polls who may otherwise have a difficult time voting.
“We know often transportation is a barrier to be able to exercise their right to vote so they’ll be able to just tell their driver they’re going to vote and we’ll give them a ride courtesy of Sandusky Transit and city of Sandusky,” said transit administrator Nicole DeFreitas.
Wobser said the change in holiday status will impact 250 city employees.
“We do know that’s a modest amount of people in a city of 25,000, but again it was really about making the statement,” he said.
City employee Talon Flohr said he plans to take advantage of the day off and assist other voters as a poll worker.
“It’s great to work for a city that is making it easier for the employees to participate in our electoral system, very excited because this will be my first time working the polls,” Flohr said.
Sanduksy city intern and high school student Tyler Franklin, who previously announced to FOX 8 he plans to run for president in 2052, said he was tapped to work the polls too.
“Young people going into a voting location feel a lot more comfortable when they see other young people there,” Franklin said. “So we thought it would be a great way to push the young voter turnout.”
Erie County Board of Elections officials said it’s not clear if making Election Day a paid holiday will boost voter turnout.
“One vote can swing an election and ultimately if more communities do this it’s more likely it can have an impact over time,” Wobser said.