JANUARY 19, 1960
NEW YORK—One of our senior citizens in California, Mr. Harry Lurge, who is afflicted by blindness, has time to think and has sent to me some of his observations along with an article on the serious situation that surrounds our record as voters in this leading democracy of ours.
He says that out of the 100,000,000 eligible voters in this country 80,000,000 are registered but that only 60 percent, as a rule, seem to exercise their right to vote. He is disturbed by the fact that in the 1958 campaign, after President Eisenhower had appealed to the women of the country to vote, 52 percent of the total vote cast was cast by women and only 48 percent by men.
He seeks the reason for the apparent apathy of the voters in the face of the fact that in other democracies the percentage of those eligible to vote who carry out this obligation is far greater.
So, he has come to the conclusion that we should make our General Election Day a national holiday, without exception. He feels that we could well give up some of the days we now celebrate as national holidays and that having election day a national holiday would mean that there would be no excuse for busy people not to cast their ballots. At present some of these people may easily feel they cannot reach the polls before going to work and they do not get home in time to vote before they close.
Mr. Lurge does not mention the fact that in some of the other democracies if the citizen does not vote he is penalized and has to pay a fine. That, of course, may have something to do with the better voting records that these democracies have established.
Whatever the reason, however, the fact remains that this is a very important subject, for a democracy is not a democracy if the people do not take the trouble to vote, and I think it might be well to consider seriously the following suggestion:
Since election day is always on a Tuesday, I will go a step further and suggest that the Monday Labor Day holiday be celebrated on the Monday before election day. Thus, people would have from Friday to Wednesday morning away from their places of employment, which would be a real break, and from the health point of view probably would give more of a rest than the two separate days at two separate times.
I realize this would mean a real upheaval in the habits and customs of years, but perhaps now and then it is well to look at these situations and see if we can improve them—and this might be a real improvement.
On last Saturday in Monterey, Calif., I had time for a short drive and for the first time I saw Carmel, which is as picturesque and as attractive as I have always heard from the enthusiasts who go there for holidays as well as to retire and enjoy life. Such a beautiful coast and marvelous sand beach and wonderful old trees!
We had a very good audience for my lecture in Monterey. It overflowed into several rooms surrounding the one in which I spoke, and though a great many could not see me that night they could hear perfectly well.
We left Monterey early Sunday morning, made our connection for the jet plane in San Francisco, and were in New York a little after 5 p.m.
I must say that Idlewild is a pretty difficult field at which to arrive from the West. One walks for miles and then waits long minutes for bags. And it was our misfortune to wait for sometime also for a taxi, despite the fact that the airline officials were kindness itself and did all they could to facilitate our departure. However, they were defeated by physical conditions, and one hopes these will be remedied soon. It certainly is pleasanter to come in from Europe than from the West Coast.
It is good to be home, though the pile of work we find is a little terrifying to both Miss Corr and me.